M&S Continues to Fight to End Sexual Harassment and Stem the Opioid Crisis

Federal Judge Certifies Class Action Lawsuit for Women Workers at Cook County Jail

A federal judge granted class action status for a sexual harassment lawsuit on behalf of hundreds of women employed at the Cook County Jail as correctional officers, sheriff deputies, and nurses. The suit documents a pattern of pervasive and disturbing sexual harassment and masturbation attacks by inmates directed at women working in the Jail and Sheriff Tom Dart’s failure to take action to address it.

Cyrus Mehri, Michael Lieder and Ellen Eardley joined a team of Chicago attorneys in 2018, representing a putative class of women working as correctional and civilian employees.

“This is a really significant victory for all the women who work at the Cook County Jail,” Ellen Eardley, an attorney for the guards, told Law360. “And I think it’s an important #MeToo moment for women who work in corrections throughout the country.”

The rate of reported sexual misconduct incidents against employees at the Cook County Jail was four to seven times greater than in the California prisons. When women reported the disturbing behavior to their superiors, they often were told it was part of the job, leading to greater safety concerns and emotional stress for those affected.

M&S won a similar lawsuit on behalf of women workers at a federal prison in Florida for $20 million dollars and injunctive relief, including implementation of best practices to curtail the sexual misconduct. In November 2017, the U.S. District Court Judge Matthew F. Kennelly issued apreliminary injunction in the Cook County case requiring similar measures aimed at reducing the
harassment.

The judge’s decision to give class action status to the case also garnered a favorable response in the press, including:

Law 360 – Attys, Guards Win Green Light To Advance Sex Conduct Suits
Insider – Female jail workers and lawyers in Chicago allege inmates made a game of’masturbation attacks’, and they’re suing
ABA Journal – Judge allows class actions over inmate ‘masturbation attacks’ against public defenders and jail workers

Cook County has appealed the district court’s class certification decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Order in Opioid Multidistrict Litigation Memorializes Pharmacy Benefit Managers’ Opioid Prescription Limitations to Address Opioid Addiction Risks

 

On July 15, 2019, the U.S. District Court handling the national opioid multidistrict litigation resolved a motion filed by Webb County, Texas and West Virginia-based Teamsters Locals 175 & 505 Health & Welfare Fund seeking a preliminary injunction directing the nation’s three largest pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs)-CVS Caremark, Express Scripts, and OptumRx-to take
immediate steps to align their standard national formularies with the recommendations in the 2016 CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.

Judge Polster’s order, which does not interfere with doctors’ medical decisions, memorialized the  following programs or utilization-management criteria that the individual PBMs already had in place or agreed to put in place:

  • Without prior doctor authorization, the PBMs either offer or have begun the process of offering criteria to limit opioid prescriptions to 90 milligrams per day;
  • Without prior doctor authorization, the PBMs limit or shall limit first-time prescriptions for acute pain to 7 days or less;
  • With respect to minors (19 and under), the PBMs either offer or have begun the process of
    offering criteria to limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain to no more than 3 days without
    doctors’ prior authorization; and
  • The PBMs include in their offerings drugs prescribed for medication assisted treatment of
    opioid use disorder and non-opioid alternatives.

At the time of plaintiffs filing for preliminary injunction in September, 2018, Express Scripts’s standard offerings permitted opioid prescriptions of up to 200 milligrams per day without prior authorization and did not limit first-time prescriptions to 7 days or less. OptumRx had in place or had underway all the discussed utilization management criteria. CVS Caremark was somewhere
in the middle between Express Scripts and OptumRx.

Teamsters Local Nos. 175 & 505 Health & Welfare Fund and Employer Teamsters Local Nos. 175 & 505 Retiree Health & Welfare Fund are represented by Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, based in Washington, DC; Henrichsen Siegel, with offices in Washington, DC and Jacksonville, Florida; Ciccarello, Del Guidice & LaFon, in Charleston, West Virginia; and Terrell Hogan Yegelwel, P.A., in Jacksonville, Florida.

Our co-counsel include the law firms of Willenson Law, LLC, Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd., Noelle Brennan & Associates, Ltd., and Kulwin Masciopinto & Kulwin, LLP.

 

Richard Condit Interviewed for Book on Whistleblowing

crisis of conscienceM&S Partner Richard Condit was interviewed by Tom Mueller for his forthcoming book on whistleblowing titled Crisis of Conscience: Whistleblowing in an Age of Fraud due for release on October 1st.

YOU’RE INVITED!

On October 8 from 6-8 p.m., the Mehri & Skalet Whistleblower Practice will host a conversation and book signing event with author Tom Mueller. He is a NYT best-selling author of the book Extra Virginity – an account of the culture, history, and fraud in the olive oil industry. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, National Geographic, NYT Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, and elsewhere.  We are very excited to have the opportunity to share Tom’s excellent book on whistleblowing and to spend some time discussing this important topic. Please RSVP to brye@findjustice.com.

Diverse & Engaged Honors Trailblazer Cyrus Mehri

Diverse & Engaged, an organization that provides programs and initiatives to engage
diverse populations, presented Cyrus Mehri with its Diversity Trailblazer Award at its D&I Honors event in Washington, D.C. on September 11. D&I Honors recognizes leaders who have made bold moves across the industry of diversity and inclusion.

end of sexual harassment