Negative Changes May Be Coming for Class Action Lawsuits in the U.S

A bill currently making its way through the U.S. Congress could change the legal landscape for plaintiffs in personal injury and malpractice cases. Known as the Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act, it was passed by a margin of 220 to 201 in the House of Representatives and is likely to reach the Senate soon. Along with the provisions intended to limit the ability of individuals to recover damages, the action also requires trusts that administer payments to asbestos victims to publish the names and addresses of these recipients on a quarterly basis.

Limiting the Ability of Consumers to Collect Damages

The primary focus of the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act is to restrict the ability of individuals to qualify to take part in a class action lawsuit. In essence, the provisions of the Act require that each participant proves that he or she has the same degree of injuries as all others accepted to the class. This is nearly impossible to establish in some cases.

• For example, car accidents caused by a manufacturing defect can cause a broad range of injuries that can be tough to compare.
• Pharmaceutical products can cause different and varied medical issues for patients using the same drug at the same dosage.

The Act also includes provisions that will reduce the ability of attorneys to collect on settlements achieved through the class action process. Proponents of the bill argue that the current system allows too many individuals with only minor claims or claims that skew the damages much higher for all parties to the class action. Opponents, on the other hand, note that the new requirements will make it much harder for class actions to attract the number of plaintiffs needed to take on corporate wrongdoers.

Veterans Groups Object to FACT Act

At least 18 veterans’ groups have come out against the FACT Act, noting that it will release personally identifiable information about veterans who have been harmed by asbestos and who receive payments for these injuries. By publishing their names, addresses and a portion of their Social Security numbers every quarter, the FACT Act will potentially increase the vulnerability of those negatively affected by asbestos exposure. Since many of those who receive payments as a result of these exposures are veterans, this could present a serious issue for individuals who served the U.S. with honor in the past.

The bill must still go through the process of Senate approval before being signed into law. For those who have are injured in accidents caused by the negligence of corporate entities, seeking help from a qualified legal team can provide the support needed to participate in a class action suit against these corporations. At Risman & Risman, we focus on providing residents of New York with the most comprehensive employment law and anti-discrimination representation services. Call us today at 212-233-6400 to set up a free consultation. We look forward to the chance to serve your legal needs.

Allegations of Sexual Harassment Stain Reputation of Sterling Jewelry

Sexual harassment is an issue that can severely affect the public image and the profitability of any company. One of the largest and most profitable jewelry firms in the U.S., Sterling Jewelry, recently learned this lesson in a dramatic and public way. The parent company of Kay Jewelers® and Jared® the Galleria of Jewelry is currently facing a private class-action case that alleges a general atmosphere of sexual discrimination and harassment endemic throughout the organization.

Thousands of Employees Affected

The arbitration initially filed in 2008 by a relatively small group of women. It now encompasses the claims of 69,000 women and men who have signed on to the arbitration case since that time. The statements provided by these individuals include some disturbing allegations:

• Members of management allegedly solicited sexual favors as a condition of receiving raises or promotions.
• Stores under the Sterling Jewelry umbrella were scouted by managers at the company to identify women employees considered attractive.
• Inappropriate comments were made about women’s bodies in the workplace.
• Women were routinely paid less than their male colleagues, and men were promoted in preference to more qualified and experienced women in the workplace.
• Blatant sexual overtures and physical contact with female managers occurred regularly at the Sterling Jewelry annual managers meeting. No spouses were invited to attend this event.
• One employee reported that when she attempted to report unwanted sexual advances to the company, she was falsely accused of theft and terminated from her position.

Sterling Jewelry has denied these charges, insisting that the company has measures in place to address any complaints of sexual discrimination or harassment and that these steps have been used effectively to deal with any allegations of misconduct.

An Atmosphere of Secrecy

The employment agreement signed by staff members at Sterling Jewelry precludes the settling of work-related disputes in public courts. These cases must commence at arbitration, which virtually guarantees that both the accusations and the outcomes will remain safely away from the public eye. The release of documents relating to the case was negotiated over more than a year between reporters at the Washington Post, attorneys representing the complainants in the case and the legal team at Sterling Jewelry. It is still not clear why the arbitration has taken so long to resolve.

Damage to Corporate Reputation

Regardless of the eventual outcome of the arbitration case, the release of the sworn statements of some former and current employees has likely done permanent damage to the Sterling Jewelry brand as well as to its subsidiary companies. Since many of the customers in the jewelry industry are women, the public airing of these accusations is likely to have a lasting negative effect on sales for the companies under the Sterling Jewelry umbrella.

If you have been the victim of unwanted sexual advances or sexual harassment in the workplace, the legal team at Risman & Risman can provide you with the help you need to pursue your case in court. We will work with you to determine the most effective strategies to protect your legal rights and hold companies accountable for their actions. Call us at 212-233-6400 to set up a free consultation. We’re here to help.