Blog : Minami Tamaki Newsletter Fall 2009

Jack Lee, Sean Tamura-Sato Settle Discrimination Cases

seanMinami Tamaki LLP partner Jack Lee and associate Sean Tamura-Sato negotiated a $160,000 settlement at mediation for a Fremont, Calif., woman laid off in a reduction in force, but who suspected discrimination on the basis of her national origin and age. The client (name withheld), a 51-year-old Chinese American, was employed by a multinational technology company in its Cupertino office.

Initially hired as a temporary employee, she rose to the position of Finance Manager during a 30-year career with the company. Despite receiving glowing performance evaluations for decades, the client consistently received a lower salary and bonuses than comparable non-Chinese employees.

Further investigation revealed a pattern and practice of discriminatory action against Chinese American employees. The employer informed the client in December 2007 that that she was being laid off as part of an upcoming merger. The company refused to consider her for reassignment to other positions, instead awarding them to less qualified non-Chinese employees and employees under the age of 40.

A review of the company’s layoff notice revealed evidence that the client was selected for layoff based on her national origin and age.

In another case, a Palo Alto, Calif., woman represented by Lee and Tamura-Sato received a $120,000 settlement in a case where the client was part of a mass company layoff. The woman alleged discrimination on the basis of age, marital status, and family responsibility discrimination, a new and emerging field in employment discrimination law.

The client, age 41, was an internal controls manager in the Santa Clara office of a global technology corporation. She received excellent performance evaluations throughout her 12 years with the company, while also earning her CPA and raising her young children.

In March 2008, the client was harassed for taking vacation days during her children’s spring break. Her supervisor singled her out for this treatment despite the client having followed all company vacation policies.

Soon after this incident, the client was selected for layoff as part of an internal reorganization. All employees promoted to management positions within the new group were unmarried and had no children. Further, all managers age 40 or above were laid off or demoted as a result of this reorganization.

Minami Tamaki LLP Welcomes New Attorneys, Paralegals, Assistants

Olivia Serene Lee, an associate in our San Francisco office with the Immigration practice group, joined the firm in January 2009. Olivia was admitted to the California Bar and the United States District Court, Northern District of California, in 2008. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and will serve as a New Members Division Program Coordinator for the AILA Northern California Chapter’s Advisory Board (2009-2010). Olivia received her Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University School of Law in 2008. While in law school, Olivia worked as a law clerk for MT’s Immigration practice group in 2007 and 2008. She also participated in her law school’s Immigration Appellate Practice and argued before the Ninth Circuit under her law professor’s supervision. During the spring of 2007, Olivia interned at the San Francisco Immigration Court, where she researched removal, deportation and asylum issues. She also volunteered with immigration cases involving domestic violence and human trafficking at the Asian Law Alliance. Olivia earned her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in 2003 from the University of California at Davis, majoring in Asian American Studies and Biochemistry/Molecular Biology. She is also a native of San Francisco and will run her first marathon this year.

Sean Tamura-Sato is an associate in our Civil Litigation practice group. Sean also worked for us as a summer clerk in 2006 while in law school. Sean was admitted to the California Bar in 2007 and the Hawai’i Bar in 2008. Sean practices civil litigation with an emphasis in employment law. He represents employees on an individual and class basis in discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wage and hour claims. Sean also practices antitrust law, representing consumers in domestic and international class actions. Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai’i, Sean received a B.S. from Cornell University and his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings. While in law school, Sean served as an editor for the Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal and was the President of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association. He also worked as a Workers’ Rights Clinic counselor at the San Francisco Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center. Prior to attending law school, Sean interned in Washington, D.C. for United States Senator Daniel K. Akaka of Hawai’i, and in the United States Department of Transportation.

Jeanette E. Haggas, an associate in our Personal Injury practice group, joined the firm in December 2008. She was previously a research attorney for the Law and Motion Department of the Alameda County Superior Court, and has worked at another law firm. Jeanette has experience representing plaintiffs in California state and federal courts in a variety of cases including products liability for defective medical devices and drugs; employment discrimination, wrongful termination, and wage and hour claims; and personal injury and premises liability cases. Jeanette graduated with honors from the Honors Lawyering Program at Golden Gate University School of Law. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon.

Matthew Eller, a paralegal with our Personal Injury practice group, joined us in February of 2009 filling in temporarily and was hired permanently in May. He proved himself with his desire to learn and diligent work ethic and has been a valuable addition to the busy practice group. A California native, raised in San Rafael, Matthew received his Bachelor of Arts in History at University of California, Santa Cruz. He has a passion for sailing and cycling, and any other reason to get outside.

Nita Tsang, a paralegal with our Immigration practice group joined the firm in August 2008. Nita immigrated to Vancouver, Canada in 1992 and received her Bachelor of Business Administration degree form Simon Fraser University. In 2005, she moved to the United States and later worked as a legal assistant with a law firm located in San Jose Downtown. She has developed hands-on experience preparing and filing non-immigration and employment-based immigrant petitions and applications. Nita is fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin. She enjoys wine and music. A day trip to Napa is her routine during the summer time.

Carmelita Ong, a legal assistant with our Personal Injury practice group, joined us in May of 2008. She was previously a bookkeeper with two other law firms in the city. Born and raised in the Philippines, she attended the College of the Holy Spirit where she received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. She worked as an Analytical Chemist in North Carolina for many years. In 1993, she decided to move to San Francisco and in 1998 shifted her career to the legal field. She is a Public Notary for the last nine years. She is fluent in Fookien Chinese and Tagalog. She enjoys healthy cooking for her daughter, husband and friends. She spends her free time volunteering at religious events.

Erica Ellyson is a paralegal with our Personal Injury practice group. She began working in the legal field as a legal secretary in 2002, when she was in college. She obtained an Associates Degree in English and a paralegal degree from Cuesta College of San Luis Obispo, California. Prior to joining us in 2008, she worked in the areas of family law, criminal defense, class actions, medical malpractice and mass torts. She interned at a prestigious law firm in Washington DC in the summer of 2006 and decided she wanted to pursue a career as a paralegal. Erica has assisted our Personal Injury attorneys at trial and absolutely loves the Personal Injury field.