July, 2014 | The Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan

GE Oil & Gas Employee Files Lawsuit Alleging Race Discrimination

A Harris County man has filed a lawsuit against his employer, GE Oil & Gas, claiming that he was discriminated against because of his race.

Gaspar Salas filed the lawsuit in the Southern District of Texas on June 12.

The lawsuit claims that Salas was hired July 11, 2011 to work as a machinist for GE Oil & Gas. According to the complaint, Salas’ supervisor used derogatory language to criticize his Mexican nationality and his intelligence. The complaint alleges that Salas and other Hispanic employees were disciplined for conduct that other, non-Hispanic workers also engaged in but were not disciplined for.

According to Salas, he reported his supervisor’s behavior to human resources and a manager on eight occasions. He claims that the abuse from his supervisor increased in retaliation for the reports. Salas claims that his supervisor cut his hours and told other employees to find a reason for Salas to be fired.

The lawsuit accuses GE Oil & Gas of discrimination, race discrimination and retaliation — in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The lawsuit seeks a court order enjoining the defendant from unlawful employment practices. In addition, the complaint demands a jury trial and asks for actual, exemplary and treble damages within the court’s jurisdictional limit, attorney’s fees, costs and other relief that the court may deem just.

Robotics company sues to recover unpaid commissions

A robotics company has filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County District Court. C&D Skilled Robotics Inc. claims that another company has failed to pay commissions it owes.

C&D filed the lawsuit against TGW Systems Inc., claiming breach of contract. According to the lawsuit, the two companies entered into a contract calling for C&D to receive a five percent commission on services that TGW provided in the tire industry — including engineering, equipment and installation services.

C&D claims that since the agreement was made in May 2008, TGW has entered into significant business in the tire industry (including a $20 million contract with Goodyear) but has not paid C&D any commissions.

C&D alleges that it sent TGW an invoice in the amount of $715,589 for unpaid commissions, but TGW did not respond. C&D claims that the defendant’s lack of response to the invoice constitutes breach of contract.

C&D Skilled Robotics designs and builds robotic material handling systems for the tire and rubber, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, textile and paper industries. The company has locations in Beaumont, Texas and Schio, Italy.

TGW is a provider of automated material handling equipment and storage systems, headquartered in Spring Lake, Michigan.

The lawsuit seeks at least $715,589 in damages, plus costs.

ZeniMax Files Lawsuit in Texas District Court, Claiming Stake in Oculus Virtual Reality Technology

A video game company has filed a federal lawsuit in Northern Texas district court against virtual reality headset maker Oculus. ZeniMax Media is claiming that Oculus misappropriated intellectual property for use in its Rift virtual reality headset. 

Facebook recently purchased Oculus for $2 billion.

In its lawsuit, ZeniMax claims that it directed the development of the Rift software and designed its specifications and functionality. The suit alleges that John Carmack and other ZeniMax employees provided Oculus with confidential programming code and technical expertise that transformed the Rift prototype and made it a commercially viable virtual reality headset. 

ZeniMax is the parent company of Id Software, which Carmack cofounded.

Allegedly, Carmack first encountered the Rift prototype in April 2012, in a “primitive” form that was “little more than a display panel.” The suit argues that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey had not developed a viable display and did not have the technical expertise to do so. The lawsuit further alleges that Carmack and other ZeniMax employees made improvements to prevent distortions and reduce latency of the display’s reaction to movement.

Additionally, the plaintiff claims that ZeniMax employees worked on the Oculus Rift project under a nondisclosure agreement, but that talks broke down on the terms of a formal working relationship. Allegedly, Oculus offered to sell ZeniMax a three percent stake in the company for $1.2 million, but ZeniMax maintained that it should have a much larger equity stake. According to the lawsuit, an agreement was never reached, and Oculus never provided ZeniMax with any compensation. The lawsuit notes that John Carmack left ZeniMax to join Oculus as Chief Technology Officer in August 2013. Five other ZeniMax employees left for Oculus as well.

ZeniMax is seeking an unspecified amount in damages for misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, copyright infringement, unjust enrichment, unfair competition, trademark infringement and false designation.

More Than 90 Workers Claim Energy Company Owes Them Overtime Pay

Two lawsuits filed against Warrior Energy Services Corp. allege that more than 90 current and former employees are owed overtime pay. One of the lawsuits, filed March 31 in federal court in Victoria, Texas, claims that the energy company has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

According to court documents, crane operators and support personnel worked 50 to 100 hours per week and were shorted overtime pay.

The case concerns and contests overtime pay exemptions under the Motor Vehicle Carriers Act. Under that law, certain employees, including drivers, mechanics and loaders, are exempt from receiving overtime pay. If the act applies, Warrior treated its employees lawfully. However, the plaintiffs assert that they qualified for overtime under the Technical Corrections Act of 2008, because they use vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds on private property to service wells.

According to the plaintiffs, jobs typically lasted for only two or three days. In addition to operating the vehicles, the workers tested equipment and swept and cleaned the shops. Some employees were switched from salary to hourly in November 2012, according to court documents.

The other lawsuit was originally filed in the Southwestern District of North Dakota by 64 employees who also claimed overtime violations. That suit has been transferred to Victoria, Texas, and the plaintiffs have asked the court to consolidate them.

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