Amid these tough and uncertain times that the country — and our world — is facing, M&S is working hard to continue fighting for justice. Our Whistleblower practice is active and we remain dedicated to our clients and our mission. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would love to hear from you and hope you are safe and well.
M&S Scores Win for Walmart Workers
On April 29, 2020, Judge Staci Yandle issued an order giving her final approval of a class action settlement resolving workers claims of pregnancy discrimination against Walmart.
The case, which Judge Yandle called a “pioneer,” will bring approximately seven weeks of backpay to nearly 4,000 Walmart workers nationwide. Judge Yandle applauded counsel’s impressive work on behalf of the class.
Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, along with the National Women’s Law Center and A Better Balance, represent a class of Walmart workers who claim that Walmart’s pregnancy accommodation policies violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The case challenged Walmart’s policies from March 19, 2013 through March 5, 2014 that treated pregnant workers less favorably than other similarly situated employees, such as workers who were injured on the job and workers with disabilities.
Mehri & Skalet Partner Ellen Eardley said, “Our clients, Talisa Borders, Otisha Woolbright, and Stacey Lewis, made history by bravely standing up for their peers who were pregnant while working at Walmart. They were willing to put fairness for others ahead of their own interests by bringing this class lawsuit and waiting for years for justice. It is a privilege and honor to represent such courageous women and the thousands of women they helped.”
Approval of the class action was covered by The Washington Post.
M&S Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Deceptive “Health Care Sharing Ministry”
Last month, Mehri & Skalet and co-counsel Sirianni Youtz Spoonemore Hamburger filed a class action lawsuit against a “health care sharing ministry” selling inherently unfair and deceptive health plans to vulnerable customers in Missouri. The lawsuit claim that Aliera and Trinity Healthshare violated the state’s consumer protection act and refused to cover claims that should have been approved. Two other lawsuits are pending against the companies in New York and Colorado.
M&S’s client alleges that Aliera was recommended to him as an affordable alternative to private insurance but was misled when Aliera refused to cover routine medical expenses and denied him coverage for hernia surgery.
Jay Angoff, partner at M&S, told the New York Times, “On the one hand, [Aliera and Trinity] state, sometimes in small print, that they’re not insurance…On the other hand, they convey the impression they are insurance. They avoid any kind of state insurance department regulation.”
Health care sharing ministries share health care costs among people with common ethical or religious beliefs. They avoid the title of insurance and strict requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so long as they meet certain standards.
While ACA plans must spend 80 cents for every dollar collected in premiums on medical expenses, Aliera’s plans reserve less than 20 cents per dollar for members’ medical expenses. The lawsuit alleges that Trinity did not meet these requirements and exploited its customers, while providing little-to-no health care coverage and pocketing 25% of member contributions.
Aliera’s founder, Timothy Moses, previously spent six years in jail for securities fraud and perjury in 2004.
M&S Smokes Out NYC Over Racial Discrimination
Five New York City Fire Protection Inspectors and Associate Fire Protection Inspectors (FPIs) along with their union, AFCSME District Council 37 Local 2507, filed a racial discrimination class action complaint on Friday, May 1 — International Worker’s Day — claiming that because of race discrimination they have been paid substantially less for over a decade than New York City’s building inspectors who work for the Department of Buildings. The pay gap has climbed over the years — in 2019, the salary gap was about $9,000 per year on average. Mehri & Skalet and co-counsel Valli Kane & Vagnini represent the workers in this case.
FPIs keep the public and firefighters safe by maintaining fire prevention standards and insuring functional equipment. The complaint alleges that the pay difference arises because only about 30% of the FPIs are white whereas about 50% of the building inspectors are white. The pay gap cannot be explained by differences in their jobs, according to the complaint: the job requirements and duties of the two types of jobs are similar and FPI jobs are physically riskier. U.S. Department of Labor data shows that nationally and in major cities FPIs generally are paid more, not less, than building inspectors. New York City is the market with the largest disparity adverse to fire protection inspectors.
“All the evidence points toward the difference in the racial composition of the two groups of employees being the reason that FPIs are paid so much less than building inspectors,” said Michael Lieder, an M&S partner. “The FDNY has a history of treating fire protection inspectors as second-class employees in many respects, not just in low pay.” Indeed, the complaint discusses other forms of discrimination against them, including FDNY’s failure to provide them with adequate personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For several years M&S and Valli Kane & Vagnini also have represented African American civilian employees and rejected job applicants in a putative class action lawsuit claiming racial discrimination in FDNY’s hiring, promotion, and compensation practices. The motion to certify the class in that case was filed May 26.