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Latest News: M&S Fights Against Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace and in Immigration Policy

Cook County Jail Employees say #MeToo

A complaint filed against the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and Cook County, Illinois in April alleges a pattern of sexual harassment at the County Jail and the failure to take appropriate action. Cyrus Mehri, Michael Lieder and Ellen Eardley joined a team of Chicago attorneys, including Joshua Karsh and Marni Willenson, representing a putative class of women working as correctional and civilian employees. The women reported pervasive sexual harassment by detainees, including exhibitionist masturbation, groping and threats of sexual violence. Even though their male counterparts didn’t experience the same harassment, when the women reported the disturbing behavior to their superiors they were told it was part of the job. The women continue to face sexual harassment at the jail as the county and sheriff’s office have refused to take adequate steps to curtail the extreme harassment.

M&S has experience fighting against sexual harassment against women prison employees. M&S represented federal prison workers at the largest federal correctional complex in the country – Coleman, Fla. in proceedings claiming that the Federal Bureau of Prisons failed to take adequate steps to control sexual harassment of the women by male inmates over more than a decade. In 2017, they won an historic $20 million settlement for a class of over 500 female employees. The settlement also included substantial programmatic changes that are reducing the level of harassment at the prison.


Pregnancy Discrimination Suit Against Walmart Moves Forward

WalmartAn Illinois federal judge ruled that a class action lawsuit brought by two former Walmart employees who alleged pregnancy discrimination while working at Walmart could proceed to the next stage of litigation. The lawsuit claims the retail giant discriminated against thousands of pregnant women across the country.

In 2013, Talisa Borders became pregnant while working at a Walmart in O’Fallon, Illinois while Otisha Woolbright became pregnant while working at a Walmart in Jacksonville, Florida. Both women requested accommodations to avoid heavy lifting. Walmart denied the requests. Borders was forced to take an unpaid leave while Woolbright was injured on the job and ultimately fired.

“Walmart must right its wrongs and compensate these employees for their losses,” said Ellen Eardley, a partner at Mehri & Skalet. “It’s time Walmart stops discriminating against its pregnant
employees and treating them like second-class citizens.”

In July 2017, Walmart sought to toss the claims levied against them, filing two motions to dismiss. It argued that the employees’ legal claims were not specific enough to be violations of the law and that Woolbright, who worked in Florida, could sue it in Illinois. Judge Michael Reagan dismissed both of Walmart’s motions and ruled in the employees’ favor on both challenges.


“Of Counsel” Jeremi Duru Receives University Awards for Excellence in Teaching

Jeremi Duru, who serves as “Of Counsel” to Mehri & Skalet and teaches at American University’s Washington College of Law (WCL), received multiple awards from the university this spring. WCL awarded Mr. Duru the 2018 Excellence in Teaching Award – the law school’s most prestigious teaching award – which “recognizes outstanding teaching, as reflected by thoughtful pedagogy, commitment to student mentoring and advising and institutional leadership focused on improving the variety, quality, and rigor of teaching.” Mr. Duru was also awarded AU’s 2018 University Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching in a Tenured Appointment, which is presented to a tenured professor who has “demonstrated excellence in teaching at American University through, for example, student evaluations, integration of innovative approaches to learning, and notable work beyond the classroom setting, such as student collaboration and advising.” Mr. Duru specializes in sports law, civil procedure, and employment discrimination and is among the nation’s foremost sports law authorities.


M&S Appears on Cable “Newsy”
Michael Lieder appeared on Newsy, a national news network, during a segment about age discrimination in employment. Newsy interviewed Mr. Lieder as a legal expert as part of the bigger piece that aired on the cable network’s primetime news show on May 1 (watch a short clip from the segment below). Mr. Lieder has been a lead lawyer in several of the largest age discrimination actions against private employers in the country, including First Union Bank (now part of Wells Fargo), 3M, and most of the major television networks and studios in Hollywood on behalf of television writers.

A short clip from Newsy’s segment on age discrimination

ICYMI: Supreme Court Justices Reference Brief Co-Authored by Mehri & Skalet During Travel Ban Oral Arguments
During the Supreme Court’s oral arguments regarding President Trump’s third Travel Ban, an amicus brief authored by Mehri & Skalet, in conjunction with co-counsel Arnold & Porter and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, was explicitly referenced.

Justice Breyer questioned Solicitor General Francisco about whether the waiver system is “just window dressing” and referred to our Pars Equality brief. Picking up on this theme, Justice Sotomayor expressed similar concern, asking Solicitor General Francisco, “what are you personally doing to represent to us that it is, in fact, a real waiver process?” Justice Ginsburg, too, asked about a specific case cited in our brief of a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy who had been denied a waiver and cannot enter the United States for medical treatment.

Read the amicus brief here. The amicus brief is a continuation of advocacy in the Pars Equality Center et al v. Trump et al litigation in D.C. district court, in which three prominent Iranian-American organizations and over 25 individuals have challenged President Trump’s first, second, and third Travel Bans.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue their ruling by the end of June. You can learn more about the case at EndTheTravelBan.com.