January, 2015 | The Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan

Texas woman sues nursing home for race discrimination in employment

A Texas woman has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, claiming race discrimination.

Shireika Whitmore filed suit against HSMTX/LibertyLLC, which does business as Liberty Healthcare Center, in the Beaumont Division of the Eastern District of Texas, citing race discrimination.

According to the complaint, Whitmore began working as a respiratory therapist at Liberty Healthcare’s nursing facility in Liberty, Texas in June 2013. Whitmore alleged that the working environment was heavily charged with racial discrimination and that she was subjected to intolerably abusive actions because of her race.

Whitmore alleges that the director of nursing, a white woman, accused Whitmore, a black woman, of yelling at a white employee. According to the complaint, the director would only take statements from white employees regarding the incident, and black employees who witnessed the incident and wished to give statements were not permitted to do so. Following an investigation initiated by the director, Whitmore’s employment was terminated, the suit states.

Whitmore claims that the director of nursing told her that there was no way for her to save her job as part of the investigation, effectively targeting her for her employment to be terminated.

The lawsuit requests damages for back pay, front pay, pain and suffering, economic losses, exemplary damages, attorney’s fees and costs, along with other relief. A jury trial is requested.

Citgo sues fuel reseller for breach of contract

Citgo Petroleum has filed a lawsuit against a fuel reseller for breach of contract, claiming that the reseller sold non-brand motor fuel under Citgo’s name and failed to pay for fuel purchases.

Citgo Petroleum Corporation filed the lawsuit against Daibes Oil and Fred A. Daibes in the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, on October 14.

The lawsuit alleges that Citgo and Daibes Oil entered into a marketer-franchise agreement whereby Daibes would purchase motor fuel from Citgo for resale under the Citgo brand name to consumers and retailers. According to the complaint, they entered into the agreement on February 16, 2012.

Also according to the complaint, Daibes Oil has failed to pay more than $359,000 for fuel purchases made in January. Citgo also alleges that in 2013, Fred Daibes signed a guaranty for the agreement, and that he has failed to comply with its terms.

Citgo also alleges that it provided branding materials on the condition that Citgo would be reimbursed if the service stations debranded within a 60-month amortization period, and that Daibes Oil failed to reimburse Citgo under the contract. Citgo also alleges trademark infringement, claiming that Daibes Oil has sold non-branded motor fuel under Citgo’s name.

Citgo is seeking damages, interest, attorney’s fees and costs.

Jewelry company sues Sam’s Club for tortious interference

A jewelry maker has filed a lawsuit against Sam’s Club, claiming that the retail warehouse club is selling its jewelry without permission.

David Yurman Enterprises filed the lawsuit against Sam’s Club on September 4 in the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.

According to the complaint, Yurman sells its jewelry at boutiques located across the United States and through authorized retailers. Yurman claims that its jewelry is well-known by consumers and the industry for its quality and uniqueness of design.

The complaint alleges that Sam’s Club recently began selling Yurman’s jewelry at discounted prices in stores located in Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties. However, Yurman claims that Sam’s Club was not approved to carry the jewelry and is not an authorized retailer. Yurman claims that the conduct by Sam’s Club has caused confusion and disappointment among consumers by creating the false impression that the warehouse club is an authorized retailer. According to the lawsuit, unlike authorized retailers, Sam’s Club is not able to offer certain services to consumers.

The lawsuit states that Sam’s Club is making prominent use of the Yurman trademark, packaging and placards, including a purported Yurman certificate of authenticity.

The lawsuit alleges false designation, trademark infringement, tortious interference with contract and unfair competition. Yurman seeks a court order prohibiting Sam’s Club from using Yurman’s trademark, and from acquiring and reselling its jewelry. The lawsuit also seeks unspecified damages, attorney’s fees, costs and other relief.

Chesapeake Faces Department of Justice Investigation and Ongoing Lawsuits Over Royalty Payments

Chesapeake Energy, facing multiple lawsuits from landowners over claims of underpaid royalties, has revealed that the company has been subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice and several states over its alleged wrongdoing.

State attorneys and federal prosecutors have demanded that Chesapeake produce documents, give testimony and provide information relating to the alleged underpayments. Separately, the company has revealed that it has been subpoenaed regarding possible violations of anti-trust laws. In Michigan and Pennsylvania, Chesapeake faces racketeering charges.

The federal and state investigations come as Chesapeake continues to face a number of civil lawsuits from landowners. Dozens of landowners in Texas and Oklahoma have sued Chesapeake, claiming that the company used accounting tricks to avoid paying them the full royalty payments they were due for allowing Chesapeake to drill for oil and gas under their land. 

The lawsuits allege that Chesapeake engaged in sham transactions with affiliated companies in order to manipulate natural gas prices, calculated royalties based on below-market prices, and deducted post-production costs from royalty payments, even when lease agreements prohibited such deductions.

In Michigan, Chesapeake is facing a criminal anti-trust complaint over alleged collusion with Encana Corp. to rig bids for drilling leases in the Collingswood shale region of the state. Also in Michigan, the company faces racketeering charges for allegedly offering large bonuses to landowners in order to lock up mineral leases in the region, then backing out of the leases once the competition had been shut out.

Chesapeake is still recovering after the ouster of CEO Aubrey McClendon, who was the subject of a federal investigation over alleged financial misdeeds.

Employee files lawsuit over alleged sex discrimination

A female information technology worker for GDF Suez Energy North America Inc. filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming sex discrimination in regard to promotions within the company.

Alicia Thornhill filed the lawsuit October 9 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas. She claims that her employer prevented her from advancing during her eight years of employment, despite less-qualified male employees being promoted to higher positions.

Thornhill claims in the lawsuit that she was hired in May 2005 and is the only woman working in the company’s IT server department. She claims that male employees who were unqualified and inexperienced or who had committed work infractions were promoted ahead of her, even though she had a positive work history.

Thornhill also claims that she has been repeatedly denied the opportunity to receive training that would allow her to advance in her employment. According to the lawsuit, the company granted requests by male employees in the IT department to receive training in various locations across the country, but Thornhill’s requests were not approved or denied outright.

The lawsuit also alleges that Thornhill was held to a different standard of discipline than her male colleagues, who were spared the discipline expected of her.

Thornhill has requested a jury trial.

ExxonMobil Sues Industrial Services Companies for Breach of Contract Over Refinery Fire

ExxonMobil has filed a lawsuit against three industrial services companies and three insurance companies over a fire in its Beaumont, Texas refinery. The blaze resulted in injuries to several workers.

The lawsuit was filed on September 9 against Clean Harbors Industrial Services, Signature Industrial Services, Brock Services, American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Co., Zurich American Insurance Co., and Lexington Insurance Co., in Jefferson County District Court.

According to the complaint, a fire started in the refinery on April 17, 2013, after an attempt to service a unit that removes sulfur from hydrocarbon feeds. The suit states that ExxonMobil hired Clean Harbors to clean the exchangers and remove all hydrocarbons from the system, then hired Signature to remove bolts from the system after the cleaning.

The lawsuit states that Clean Harbors declared the clean to be complete, but approximately 30-60 gallons of hydrocarbon were still present in the system. The hydrocarbon was released from the channel head flange when Signature removed bolts from the unit. The suit alleges that Signature used a cutting wrench rather than an impact wrench, and the flame from the torch ignited the hydrocarbons, causing the fire.

ExxonMobil said that employees of Brock Services were injured in the fire, and ExxonMobil was forced to pay them workers’ compensation benefits. Lawsuits have also been filed against ExxonMobil by injured workers. According to the Beaumont Fire Department, 12 workers were injured in the fire, with three of them sustaining severe burns.

In its suit, ExxonMobil alleges breach of contract and negligence, and it seeks actual damages plus 18 percent interest, declaratory relief, attorneys’ fees and other relief.

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