Yahoo sued for gender bias by male employee

Yahoo is being sued by a former employee that claims that he was discriminated against for being male.

Gregory Anderson, who was employed in Yahoo’s media division was fired in November 2014.  He filed a lawsuit against the tech giant, alleging the company’s performance management system was arbitrary and unfair. Anderson “alleges that Mayer encouraged and fostered the use of the QPR Program to accommodate management’s subjective biases and personal opinions, to the detriment of Yahoo’s male employees.”

The QPR Program at Yahoo is the controversial quarterly performance review program that ranks employees and then fires the lowest ranking ones. In the Media division, where Anderson was an editor, the complaint says that when male and female employees got equally low scores (anything under 3), the women were favored and the men were fired. What’s worse, in the case that both male and female employees got the same score, the men were fired and the female employee took over the male employees job.

This isn’t the first discrimination lawsuit to be tied to a stack ranking system. In the early 2000s, a cascade of cases against Ford, Goodyear, and Capital One, alleged that such systems led to age discrimination against older employees

The lawsuit also alleges that in addition to discriminating against men, Yahoo fires people without just cause and did not give 60 days’ notice to staff affected in mass layoffs. In California, layoffs are defined as terminating more than 50 people at one time, therefore not providing notice violates California law. In addition to the complaint about the way that people were fired, Anderson’s complaint also alleges that there was unfair gender based biased for hiring.  Former Chief Marketing Officer Kathy Savitt, almost exclusively hired women into management positions in Yahoo’s media division.

Under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and also California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal. It doesn’t matter which gender the person happens to be.

“The Anderson lawsuit raises the question of how to correct lingering gender discrimination against women and suggests that the answer is not yet more illegal discrimination,” wrote Anderson’s attorney Jon Parsons in a statement about the lawsuit.

Article via Huffington Post, 4 February 2016

Photo: Yahoo! by Eric Hayes [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Uber faces another lawsuit, may have to alter screening strategies

Many objections have been made to Uber in the past, and now Uber is facing a lawsuit after two anonymous women have stated that they were sexually assaulted by Uber drivers. Not only does the lawsuit call into question how effective Uber’s background checks are, it also attacks Uber’s marketing strategy. The lawsuit claims that because Uber advertises its service as a safe way to get home for young women who have been drinking, Uber should be more closely monitoring the actions of their drivers. The official complaint from the two women who were allegedly assaulted states that, “By marketing heavily toward young women who have been drinking, while claiming that rider safety is its #1 priority, Uber is instead putting these women at risk.”

Uber drivers have been classified as independent contractors rather than employees up until now, but this lawsuit could force Uber to exert more control over their drivers. The lawsuit calls for Uber to up their safety measures, including conducting more thorough background checks with drivers and requiring drivers to place a GPS tracking system in their car that will set off an alarm if the driver goes off-course. Other requests include a 24-hour customer support hotline and forcing drivers to disable child-lock features on doors in Uber drivers’ vehicles.

While Uber maintains that they have ” strict safety standards”, this lawsuit is not the first time its drivers have been accused of sexual assault. Uber uses the company Hirease to screen potential drivers, and several databases are checked to make sure the driver in question has not committed any violent crimes or sexual violence, among other violations. Determining if Uber is at fault for these assaults is difficult, Sarju Naran, an attorney for Hoge Fenton’s law group, explains: “Even with thorough background checks, it is often difficult to predict if or when someone might engage in violent or other criminal acts.” If Uber is found to be liable for these drivers’ crimes, though, it will have serious ramifications for the company moving forward.

Article via CNET, October 8, 2015

Photo: Paris, as seen in the back of an Uber via Kirsten [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Google, Microsoft to settle patent feud

Microsoft and Google agreed Wednesday to dismiss nearly 20 patent related lawsuits that they have pending against one another.

The two rivals have filed lawsuits against each other for the last 5 years over royalties related to wi-fi, smartphones and web video. The core of these lawsuits has been an ongoing fight over the use of  patents. Both Google and Microsoft have fought viciously to use patents owned by the one another, and to collect royalties for their use.

The patent disagreement started in 2010 when Microsoft filed suit against Motorola, which was acquired by Google the following year. Microsoft, like other prominent software companies, licenses patents from Google for various products and devices. Microsoft’s suit alleged that Android devices infringed on Microsoft patents and that Motorola was charging excessively for the royalties. Google fought back claiming that Motorola’s royalty rates were fair.

In 2013, Microsoft won its case against Motorola and got the royalty rate reduced to 22 times lower than Motorola was charging.

Neither company disclosed the settlement to end their patent feud, but they did say that they “agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers.”

 

Article via CNET, 30 September 2015

Photo: Google Campus Mountain View, CA via Eric Langhorst[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

 


Volkswagon lawsuits likely to be consolidated

Volkswagon has been in the news lately because of a scandal involving software used to trick emissions tests on diesel vehicles.  The software was rigged to allow their diesel vehicles to pass their emissions test even though the emissions from the vehicles are well above the standard. Immediately following the news, the US has issued a recall for the vehicles, as well as a federal probe to find out what the company knew and when. In the meantime, lawsuits are being filed all around the country.

Robert Clifford, a prominent plantiff lawyer, expects a consolidation of lawsuits in the near future. Clifford has held a number of leadership roles in the American Bar Association and filed a suit against Volkswagen. “No doubt about it, there will be an MDL [multi-district litigation] here,” said Clifford. An overview done by the Wall Street Journal further confirms that laywers are looking to consolidate the lawsuits against Volkswagon.

Amie Parsons, a real estate agent in Dallas, recently filed lawsuit against Volkswagon. Parsons states that Volkswagon’s dishonesty seriously affects her bottom line as a real estate agent. Her attorney, Charles “Trey” Branham, spoke to a newspaper on her behalf. He stated that his client drives people around everyday for her profession, and [the Volkswagon scandal] causes her a big problem. Branham goes on to say “…it is something that affects real people on a daily basis, and it is a problem for them, not to mention the problem of putting 40 times the legal limit of pollution into the air.”

 

 

Article via ABAJournal, 29 September 2015

Photo: VW Kombi via Long Road Photography [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


AT&T sales reps accused of using malware to unlock phones

A southern California company and former AT&T sales reps are being sued by AT&T Mobility. They are accused of uploading malicious software to unlock phones so that the phones can be used by any wireless network without a contract. It is likely that the sales reps were hoping to exploit the resale market for cell phones.

Lawyers for AT&T Mobility stated that schemes like this are not uncommon. The lawsuit names SwiftUnlocks, as the southern California company referenced above. This is a company that unlocks cell phones for a fee. The lawsuit goes on to describe a scheme that involves the former sales reps profiting from using SwiftUnlocks to unlock phones in milliseconds. It was precisely the act of unlocking many phones so quickly, that drew attention to these sales reps, eventually promoting an investigation.

It is alleged that the former reps earned between $10,000 and $20,000 from Swift Unlocks before tipping off their bosses with their questionable behavior.

Although the suit does not mention criminal fraud, it could still prove expensive for Swift Unlocks and the former sales reps. It is expected that the damages would include lost profit as well as factoring in the revenue that the sales reps made during their alleged scheme.

Article via CNET, 19 September 2015

Photo: This trip to the at&t store is taking longer than I expected via Keith Lam [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Ellen Pao moving on, won’t seek appeal to sex discrimination loss

Ellen Pao has been in the news a lot in the last couple of years. She has had a very high profile suit (and loss) to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as well as very public exit as CEO from Reddit.  After 3 years of litigation in her sex discrimination suit against Kleiner Perkers, she has decided to call it quits.

According to a guest post that she wrote on re/code, Pao has decided to move on.

“Over the past three and a half years, I have pursued a legal case against Kleiner Perkins for gender discrimination and retaliation”, says Pao. “Seeking justice in the courts has been painful for me personally and professionally, and for my family. I am now moving on…”

She went on to say how her experience shows how hard it is to bring gender discrimination suits in our legal system.

“Our society is struggling with workplace discrimination and harassment…human resources is a company-oriented function — when you can find it at all. But we have a long way to go, as women and minorities continue to make up a small fraction of the management at our most lucrative and productive companies.”

Ellen Pao’s struggle is a reminder that gender discrimination is still a large issue that is hard to prosecute. She documents how she was out numbered by the other side from the beginning, and believed that her only option was to trade her silence for a settlement. She has chosen to do neither in an attempt to bring sex discrimination issues to light in the hopes to foster debate and improvement.

Article via CNet, 10 September 2015

Photo: The girl with no feet via Riccardo Romano[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]