Blog : CERG

Minami Tamaki Investigating Allegations Against Hill’s Pet Nutrition Regarding Potentially Toxic Dog Food

Minami Tamaki Investigating Allegations Against Hill’s Pet Nutrition Regarding Potentially Toxic Dog Food

Minami Tamaki LLP is investigating allegations that Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. dog food has caused serious illness or death in affected dogs.

On January 31, 2019, Hill’s Pet Nutrition announced a recall of several varieties of the company’s canned dog food. Hill’s said that it recalled these products due to potentially elevated levels of Vitamin D. Excessive amounts of Vitamin D can lead to severe health issues in dogs, including vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, frequent urination, excessive drooling, and weight loss.

After initiating this recall earlier this year, Hill’s expanded its recall of dog food products in March 2019. A list of affected products, including their date or lot codes, is available at the Hill’s Pet Nutrition recall website.

For more information on our investigation, you may contact us online or call us at 415-788-9000 to set up a free consultation.

Lisa Mak Elected Secretary of AABA, Joins NAPAWF Legal Advisory Board

Lisa Mak Elected Secretary of AABA, Joins NAPAWF Legal Advisory Board

Associate Lisa P. Mak (fifth from left in photo) was elected Secretary of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA), one of the largest Asian American bar associations in the nation and one of the largest minority bar associations in California. She also starts her second term on the AABA board of directors.

Lisa was a presenter at an AABA MCLE “mini-marathon” on January 23 in San Francisco in a session titled “Mind the Gap: Pay Equity and the Legal Profession” in which she discussed the Federal and California Equal Pay Acts, pay equity issues in the legal profession, pay equity litigation, and best practices for addressing pay inequity.

Lisa also joined the new Legal Advisory Board of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). The board consists of experienced, practicing attorneys who are passionate about NAPAWF’s mission and work and will advise and support the work of the legal program and its Director as the program develops. NAPAWF is the only national, multi-issue Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women’s organization in the country, dedicated to building a movement to advance social justice and human rights for AAPI women and girls.

Photo via Charles Jung.

Lisa P. Mak Wins Appeals Court Decision Allowing Client to Pursue Harassment Claims in Court Instead of Forced, Private Arbitration

Lisa P. Mak Wins Appeals Court Decision Allowing Client to Pursue Harassment Claims in Court Instead of Forced, Private Arbitration

On December 13, 2018, the California First District Court of Appeal affirmed the ruling of the San Mateo Superior Court that our client, plaintiff Marisol Gutierrez, was not required to submit her sexual harassment claims against her former employer to forced arbitration.

Marisol Gutierrez began working for Flying Food Group LLC (FFG) in food and liquor assembly in the fall of 2012. At that time, Ms. Gutierrez joined Unite Here! Local 2, the union that represented certain classes of FFG employees according to the collective bargaining agreement between FFG and the Union. Ms. Gutierrez alleged that during her employment at FFG, she was subjected to verbal and physical sexual harassment at work by male supervisors and co-workers.

In May 2015, Minami Tamaki filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Gutierrez in San Mateo Superior Court against FFG for sexual harassment and hostile work environment, failure to prevent sexual harassment, and national origin discrimination, all in violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Immediately after Ms. Gutierrez filed this case, FFG filed a petition to force the case into private arbitration based on the Union’s collective bargaining agreement. In private arbitration, legal claims are usually decided by a sole arbitrator without a jury trial, and the decision would be binding with limited grounds for appeal. The trial court agreed with Ms. Gutierrez that she did not have to arbitrate her statutory discrimination claims because the arbitration language was not clear and specific enough in the collective bargaining agreement. FFG immediately appealed the trial court’s ruling, delaying the case for another two years.

The appellate court unanimously upheld the lower court’s order in Ms. Gutierrez’s favor. Specifically, the appellate court followed the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Wright v. Universal Maritime Service Corp. and held that in the context of a union collective bargaining agreement, the requirement to arbitrate statutory discrimination claims must be clearly and unmistakably stated, including specifying the statutes that will be subject to arbitration. The appellate court also held that the Supreme Court’s decision in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, favoring enforcement of arbitration agreements under the Federal Arbitration Act, did not apply here because the collective bargaining agreement did not include any agreement to arbitrate statutory discrimination claims. This ruling means Ms. Gutierrez can pursue her statutory harassment claims in court instead of a forced, private arbitration.

Minami Tamaki Investigating Marriott Data Breach

Minami Tamaki Investigating Marriott Data Breach

Minami Tamaki LLP is investigating Marriott’s recent announcement of a massive data breach involving its Starwood guest reservation database.  Marriott announced on November, 30, 2018, that this breach exposed the personal information of up to 500 million customers.

Marriott revealed that hackers were able to copy information in the Starwood guest reservation database that included passport numbers, credit card information, Starwood Preferred Guest (“SPG”) account information, travel details, and/or other personal information.

According to Marriott’s data breach website, the company received an alert from an internal security tool on September 8, 2018, regarding an attempt to access the Starwood guest reservation database.  Marriott launched an investigation in response to this attempt, and then learned that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network dating back to 2014.

Customers who booked and/or stayed at numerous Starwood properties may have been affected by the data breach. Starwood brands include: W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Element Hotels, Aloft Hotels, The Luxury Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts, Four Points by Sheraton, Starwood timeshare properties, and Design Hotels that participate in the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program.  Marriott International became the largest hotel chain in the world in 2016 after acquiring Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide in 2016.

Marriott announced that it has begun sending e-mails about the data breach to affected guests on a “rolling” basis. If you booked or stayed at a Starwood property and wish to discuss this matter, you may contact us at (415) 788-9000 or through our online form.  We look forward to the opportunity to speak with you.

Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2018

Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2018

Minami Tamaki LLP attorneys Dale Minami, Don Tamaki, Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, and Seema Bhatt recently attended the annual National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) National Convention in Chicago. The Convention had over 2,000 Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law students, and elected officials attending from around the country.

This year, Dale, Don, and Karen Korematsu (Founder & Executive Director of The Fred T. Korematsu Institute) were awarded the NAPABA President’s Award.  This award recognizes NAPABA members who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to NAPABA, the legal community, and the broader APA community.

Dale, Don, and Karen received this year’s award for their work on the “Stop Repeating History” campaign (StopRepeatingHistory.Org), which educates the public on the dangers of unchecked presidential power and the parallels between the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the current administration’s policies targeting minority groups based on race or religion.  In his award acceptance remarks, Don urged APA attorneys to lead on this issue due to our communities’ experience with racist and xenophobic immigration policies.


Partners Donald K. Tamaki (left) and Dale Minami (right) meeting audience members after their panel on the Korematsu v. United States and Trump v. Hawaii cases.

Don and Karen also spoke on a panel with Hoyt Zia (an original founding member of NAPABA), and moderated by Dale, about the parallels between the Korematsu v. United States and Trump v. Hawaii cases.  Don and Dale were members of the legal team that overturned Fred Korematsu’s conviction for his defiance of Japanese American exclusion orders during World War II.  

The panel discussion was preceded by a screening of the powerful film, “And Then They Came For Us,” which compares the Japanese American incarceration with the Muslim travel ban.  The film, produced by Peabody award-winning director Abby Ginzberg, won the 2018 ABA Silver Gavel Award, and has been a cornerstone of the “Stop Repeating History” campaign.


Associate Lisa P. Mak (second from left and on screen) served as panelist for a plenary session on the #MeToo movement.

Lisa was a panelist for a convention plenary luncheon session entitled “Beyond #MeToo: How Asian Americans Can Challenge Sexual Harassment in the Workplace,” with about 1,000 attendees.  The all-women panel discussed the impact of the #MeToo movement in the workplace, strategies to improve equality for women in the legal industry, and the unique challenges of addressing sexual harassment in APA communities.  During her remarks, Lisa emphasized the importance of being upstanders and allies for harassment victims in order to create a cultural change for the fair treatment of women.

Our firm also helped to sponsor the NAPABA Solo & Small Firm Network (SSF) stipend program, which provides funds for SSF committee members to attend the conference and future NAPABA events.  “Minami Tamaki is a longtime proponent of SSF’s work, including the committee’s CLE Bootcamp that provides legal skills training and business advice to SSF attendees at the Convention. The firm is proud to contribute to SSF’s mission of building and supporting APA-owned law firms,” said Partner Sean Tamura-Sato.


Partner Sean Tamura-Sato (left), Associate Lisa P. Mak (right), with other attendees at one of the NAPABA convention lunches.

This year, the late San Francisco Mayor Edwin Mah Lee was honored with the Daniel K. Inouye Trailblazer Award, NAPABA’s most prestigious award which recognizes the outstanding achievements, commitment, and leadership of lawyers who have paved the way for the advancement of other APA attorneys.  The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) spearheaded the nomination of Mayor Lee for this award.

Our firm congratulates outgoing President Pankit Doshi from San Francisco for his successful leadership this year. Daniel Sakaguchi, also from San Francisco, was sworn in as the new NAPABA President. Both Pankit and Daniel are members of AABA, which was co-founded by Dale Minami over 40 years ago.

Minami Tamaki is proud to continue supporting NAPABA and its efforts to address civil rights issues, promote professional development, and increase diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

Photo credits: John B. Lough, Lisa P. Mak, Betty Hsu, Winston Liaw

Minami Tamaki Investigating Health Risks of Toxic Dog Food

Minami Tamaki Investigating Health Risks of Toxic Dog Food

Minami Tamaki LLP is investigating claims that pet food companies are manufacturing, advertising, and selling dog food that contains dangerous levels of heavy metals and toxins throughout the United States.

Several consumers have recently filed claims against Champion Petfoods, the makers of Acana and Orijen dog food, alleging that the company misrepresents and fails to fully disclose the presence of heavy metals and toxins known to pose health risks to humans and animals. These ingredients include arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, and/or Bisphenol A (“BPA”).

Consumers allege that Champion Petfoods has created a niche by selling dog food marketed as “biologically appropriate” and made of higher-quality ingredients. The complaints state that Champion Petfoods charges a premium for its products based on claims that they consist of fresh meat and vegetables.

Purchasers of Acana and Orijen are not alone in raising concerns about ingredients in popular brands of dog food recently. In August 2018, a New York pet owner alleged that the dog food brand Nutrish marketed as “natural” actually contained the chemical glyphosate, an herbicide used in weed-killer brands. Earlier this year, another New York dog owner filed a lawsuit alleging that the Kibbles ‘n Bits dog food she purchased for her dog contained pentobarbital, a controlled substance used to euthanize animals.  

Illnesses and even deaths linked to consumption of pet food are unfortunately not a new issue in the United States.  While some companies have sought to market themselves as an alternative to purchasing pet food that contains potentially harmful ingredients, recent allegations have raised questions about the validity of these health claims.

Conscientious pet owners are increasingly paying a premium for “fresh,” “natural” food for their pets.  These consumers expect to receive a premium product, and make their purchasing decisions to ensure that the food they provide to their beloved pets is safe to consume.  Companies that prey on consumers’ health concerns for their own profit may be in violation of state and/or federal law.

For more information, you may contact us online or call us at 415-788-9000 to set up a free consultation.

Employee No-Poach Agreements Face Legal Pressure

Employee No-Poach Agreements Face Legal Pressure

Minami Tamaki is investigating “no-poach” and wage-fixing agreements between companies in numerous large industries.

A no-poach agreement involves companies agreeing not to compete for each other’s employees, such as by not soliciting or hiring them. A wage-fixing agreement involves an agreement regarding employees’ salary or other terms of compensation. No-poach and wage-fixing agreements that are not reasonably necessary to any separate, legitimate business collaboration between companies (known as “naked” agreements) are unlawful.

No-poach agreements have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, as critics argue that they rob employees of labor market competition, and deprive them of job opportunities and the ability to negotiate better terms of employment. Consumers have recently filed class actions against companies such as Burger King alleging that no-poach agreements illegally prevent employees from being hired or solicited from other franchises of the same brand. Some U.S. policy experts contend that no-poach and wage-fixing agreements have contributed to the low rate of wage growth in recent years in an otherwise robust economy.

The federal government has publicized its intention to target illegal agreements among competitors. In October 2016, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Federal Trade Commission issued policy guidance warning that naked no-poach and wage-fixing agreements among companies would be treated as criminal antitrust violations.

This guidance followed on the heels of the DOJ filing civil enforcement actions against technology companies that allegedly entered into no-poach agreements with competitors, including Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, and Pixar.

Since issuing its guidance in October 2016, the DOJ has continued to demonstrate its willingness to pursue no-poach agreements. In April 2018, the Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against rail equipment suppliers Knorr-Bremse AG and Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp., and with it simultaneously filed a proposed civil settlement. The Complaint alleged that these companies and a third company, Faiveley, reached naked no-poach agreements in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

In July 2018, Attorneys General from 11 states formed a coalition to investigate no-poach agreements in franchise contracts of fast food chains, including Arby’s, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Five Guys, Little Caesars, Panera Bread, Popeyes, Wendy’s. Fast food chains, including Arby’s, Auntie Anne’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Carl’s Jr., Cinnabon, Jimmy John’s, and McDonald’s, also agreed in July 2018 to cease restricting individuals seeking employment from other branches of the same chain for higher pay.

This practice is not limited to fast-food chains. Jiffy Lube, H&R Block, and Anytime Fitness are among the other companies that have been reported to have had no-poach agreements in their franchisee contracts.

All business should be aware of developments in the law regarding no-poach and wage-fixing agreements, and should review their contracts for any such provisions. Franchised business, many of which have historically utilized contracts with no-poach provisions, should be particularly vigilant. Businesses and employees affected by no-poach and/or wage fixing agreements should consult with an attorney even if such provisions have not been enforced in the past.

For more information on our investigation and the current state of the law with regarding no-poach agreements, you may contact us online or at 415-788-9000. We look forward to the opportunity to speak with you.

Minami Tamaki Investigating Facebook Security Breach

Minami Tamaki Investigating Facebook Security Breach

Minami Tamaki LLP is investigating reports that Facebook suffered a data breach that compromised user profiles.  Facebook announced on September 28, 2018, that the security issue affected almost 50 million user accounts.

According to a Facebook security update, attackers exploited a vulnerability in the site’s code that impacted the “View As” feature, which allows users to view their profile as if they were someone else. The vulnerability allowed the attackers to receive access tokens which were used to take over user accounts. Access tokens are digital keys that keep people logged in to Facebook so they don’t need to re-enter their password upon every use.

Users throughout the United States may be impacted by this data breach.  On September 28, Facebook reset access tokens for affected accounts and temporarily turned off the “View As” feature.  The company also reset an additional 40 million accounts that have been subject to a “View As” look-up as a precautionary measure.

Minami Tamaki attorneys have experience representing individuals who have been harmed by privacy breaches.  For more information about this data breach and your legal rights, you may contact us online or call us at 415-788-9000 to set up a free consultation.

Minami Tamaki Investigating E-Cigarette Makers and Retailers for Allegedly Marketing to Minors

Minami Tamaki Investigating E-Cigarette Makers and Retailers for Allegedly Marketing to Minors

Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group is investigating claims that e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers are illegally marketing vaping products to minors.

On July 24, 2018, the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced that her office had opened an investigation into e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc. (“Juul”) and online e-cigarette retailers that sell Juul and Juul-compatible products.

San Francisco-based Juul controls over two-third of the nearly $2 billion U.S. e-cigarette market, according to industry reports.  The company is raising $1.2 billion in funding at an estimated valuation of $15 billion.

Juul vaporizers deliver flavored nicotine, derived from tobacco, through interchangeable pods.  The nicotine pods are available in numerous flavors, such as mango, fruit medley, and crème brulee. Due to their sleek design, Juul devices resemble a USB flash drive and can easily be concealed by underage users.  Users can personalize Juul devices with wraps or “skins,” and decorate them with an array of designs, colors, and images.

Juul has faced increased scrutiny as its products have gained popularity and high schools around the country have reported a rapid increase in their use.  According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, e-cigarette use has increased 900 percent among U.S. high school students from 2011 to 2015.  In June 2018, the city of San Francisco passed an initiative banning flavored tobacco, including Juul pods.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s investigation will look into whether Juul and online retailers have violated consumer protection statutes and e-cigarette regulations by failing to prevent minors from purchasing their products.  Attorney General Healey stating that “juuling and vaping have become an epidemic in our schools with products that seem targeted to get young people hooked on nicotine.”

E-cigarettes have been marketed as helpful in assisting individuals to cut down on smoking.  However, health and anti-tobacco critics argue that their popularity is leading more young individuals to become hooked on nicotine, rather than reducing the purchase of traditional cigarettes.

Individuals interested in receiving more information about Minami Tamaki’s investigation may contact us through our online form. We look forward to speaking with you.