Talking About What Matters to Employees



For Immediate Release                                                 Contact:  Dan Cohen, Full Court Press Communications
July 26, 2016                                                                                       510-282-7621 /


“Big Law” Sued by Top Female Attorney for Discrimination

Traci Ribeiro Fighting to Stop Sedgwick’s Systemic Gender Discrimination
on Pay and Equity Rights

San Francisco, CA – Chicago-based attorney Traci Ribeiro filed suit against her employer, the San Francisco-based litigation firm of Sedgwick LLP, alleging that she has been subjected to years of systemic gender discrimination in compensation and promotion to equity partner.  The complaint contains allegations by Traci Ribeiro that she has endured and witnessed flagrant gender discrimination.  Ms. Ribeiro has now filed a lawsuit alleging violations of California, Illinois and federal anti-discrimination, anti-retaliation and equal pay laws.  She also is seeking to certify a class action suit consisting of the Firm’s female attorneys past and present.

Sedgwick employs over 300 attorneys nationwide and is headquartered in San Francisco.  As of the end of June, only 9 of Sedgwick’s 54 equity partners were women.

“Traci Ribeiro was one of the Firm’s top three highest revenue-generators in 2015 and repeatedly bested her peers in revenue generation in prior years.  However she has not received promotion to Equity Partner, nor do we believe that she has received pay commensurate with her contribution to the Firm,” said attorney Sharon Vinick.

Chicago attorney J. Bryan Wood added, “We believe that the evidence will show that through systemic gender discrimination, the Firm and its leadership have made it nearly impossible for Traci and other female lawyers to be upwardly mobile.  At the same time, the Complaint alleges that the Firm has retaliated against Traci for efforts to raise awareness and solve the problem, and that the assertiveness that makes Traci a successful lawyer is being punished, not praised, because she’s a woman.”

As an example of the Firm’s inability to treat assertive women equitably, the Complaint alleges that a top leader of the Firm told Sedgwick’s equity partners that Ribeiro “needed to learn to behave” as a basis for lowering Ribeiro’s compensation.  As the Complaint alleges, he said this even though he had no personal interactions with Ribeiro, so his comments could only have been based on her gender.

As described in the Complaint, through the years, Sedgwick’s systemic discrimination was carried out by its all-male leadership. Even today, the Firm maintains a closed compensation system with no formal process for applying for promotion to non-equity partner or equity partner.  Until 2016, and only after Ribeiro’s complaints, no woman had ever served on Sedgwick’s Executive Committee – the committee that makes salary and promotion recommendations for non-equity partners.

Ribeiro alleges in the suit that Sedgwick pays female attorneys substantially less than their male counterparts, and that Sedgwick’s male-dominated culture systematically excludes women from positions of power within the Firm, which in turn leads to lower compensation for female attorneys as compared to male attorneys.

Attorney J. Bryan Wood said, “We think that Sedgwick’s systematic discrimination pattern is undeniable.  Female attorneys make up about fifty percent of Sedgwick’s associates, but barely more than fifteen percent of the equity partners who share in the Firm’s profits.  In addition, we have concluded that decisions about attorneys’ compensation and promotion to equity partner are based on highly subjective criteria and recommendations by the Firm’s male-dominated leadership.”

Traci Ribeiro, the plaintiff, added, “I filed this lawsuit to bring to light what I believe is Sedgwick’s systemic gender discrimination against me and all the women who both preceded me and will follow.  Let’s be clear, it is well past time for equal pay and access to Firm leadership for all female lawyers…not just me.  This convention season, Clinton and Trump support equal pay for women – it’s an issue everyone can agree on.”

According to the American Bar Association Journal, the legal industry is among the worst in providing equal pay.

Ms. Ribeiro seeks to have her day in court, while Sedgwick is attempting to enforce an arbitration provision it claims covers the dispute.  Sedgwick only sought to enforce this provision after Ms. Ribeiro filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in February 2016.

Ms. Ribeiro is represented by Sharon Vinick of Oakland’s Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP and J. Bryan Wood of The Wood Law Office, LLC in Chicago.  Traci Ribeiro works at Sedgwick’s Chicago office.  She joined Sedgwick in 2011.  The lawsuit was filed on July 26, 2016 in Superior Court for the State of California, San Francisco County.

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Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP’s partners have, collectively, represented plaintiffs in employment cases for almost a century. Their practice reflects their commitment to helping employees remedy problems that have occurred in the workplace.

The Wood Law Office, LLC represents individuals from CEOs to entry-level employees in employment law matters, including individual, group and class action litigation, and advises small businesses about compliance with employment laws.



On November 23, 2015, a jury in Alameda County awarded $3,050,000 to Trish Metzner, who was represented by Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP. The case, which was tried by Darci Burrell, Katherine Smith and Leslie Levy, was brought against The Permanente Medical Group/Kaiser Foundation Hospitals. The case, which is captioned Metzner v. TMPG, was filed in Alameda Superior Court in 2013 (Civil Action No. RG 13702356).

The plaintiff, Trish Metzner, is a licensed RN, who had been employed by TPMG for almost 20 years at the time of her termination. From 2010 until 2013, when she was terminated, she served as the Director of two of medical units within TPMG. She had year after year of excellent performance evaluations before 2010, and in 2011, she received a review for the 2010 performance year that rated her as having “Excellent” or “Exceptional” performance in every category. Approximately two months after Ms. Metzner received this excellent review, she notified her supervisor that she was meeting with a surgeon to discuss a significant back surgery. Given her supervisor’s background as an OR nurse, the supervisor was aware that the surgery in question would require Ms. Metzner be on medical leave for a significant amount of time (she ended up being out for four months). Within a short period of time thereafter (perhaps as little as a few days), Ms. Metzner’s supervisor recommended to her supervisor that our client be put on a performance improvement plan. Although Ms. Metzner was not placed on a PIP at that time, she was placed on a PIP and given a negative performance evaluation when she returned from leave, followed by termination. There was very little documentation of actual performance deficiencies or of meetings with our client to discuss performance deficiencies until after she requested medical leave.

The case, which was tried before the Honorable Stephen Kaus, lasted almost six weeks. The jury deliberated over five days (about three and a half days of actual hours spent) and went over every email that TPMG had introduced as supposed evidence of Ms. Metzner’s poor performance. As the presiding juror told the trial attorneys, while there were some emails in early 2010 evidencing concern with Ms. Metzner’s performance (before the excellent 2010 evaluation), it was “radio silent” after that. The jury found in favor of Ms. Metzner, and awarded her $3,000,000 in economic damages, and $50,000 on account of the emotional distress that she suffered due to the termination. Levy Vinick will also be entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees on account of their victory.


PRESS RELEASE:  July 9, 2015

PRESS CONTACT:  Leslie Levy, 510-318-7705

July 10, 2015 – An African-American assistant superintendent has filed a racial harassment lawsuit against his former employer, after the superintendent assaulted him with a noose and made threatening and racist comments.  As documented in photos and videos taken at the time of harassment, while working in Lafayette, the employee (who is identified for his safety only as Nicholas P.) was forced to confront a noose in the construction site office of SRM Development LLC.  The noose hung in the office for two days and was not removed until the victim sent pictures of the noose, via email, to company co-owner Dee McGonigle at SRM headquarters in Spokane, Washington.

As the complaint describes, the harassment began on August 7, 2014, when Dan Schaeffer, a superintendent, threw the noose end of a rope over a cubicle wall in the office.   After the noose hit Nicholas P.’s hardhat, Schaeffer loudly asked other employees, “Did I get him?” and added, “that’s how we do them in Idaho.” The noose remained dangling on the cubicle wall and Nicholas P. left work early because of the incident.  When he returned the next day, Nicholas P. found the noose still hanging over his cubicle wall.   Later that day, Gabe McCarthy, an SRM project engineer, moved the noose to the middle of the room, telling Nicholas P. that it would fit him better there.

The racial threats and taunting did not end there.  According to the allegations of the Complaint, when Nicholas P. returned to the office after a lunch break, he found that a police sketch of a black man, on which his name had been written, had been hung in the loop of the noose.  The sketch had been previously left at the office by the police, who were investigating a theft.  Terrified by the escalating situation, Nicholas P. left work. That weekend, he emailed the photos to McGonigle.  The following week, when he was required to work with Schaeffer, the superintendent asked Nicholas, “why did you snitch?”  Later that day Schaeffer bragged that he was a good “sniper” and said “I can’t wait to bring my rifle down here.”  Schaeffer made these comments while looking at Nicholas P, who understood these comments to be a threat to his life.

Leslie F. Levy and Jean Hyams of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP represent Nicholas P. in the case which was filed in Alameda County Superior Court on July 9, 2015.

In conjunction with filing the case, attorneys for Nicholas P. have released a few of the photos taken by their client.  Leslie Levy commented, “These images should send a chill down the spine of every American as a reminder that racism and violence against African-Americans are not just things from the past.  There is no denying that racism still infects our society.  As hard as it is to look at these images, it was important to expose what is happening in American workplaces, even a liberal state like California.”

The lawsuit includes claims for violations of California’s hate crimes statute, assault, battery and racial harassment in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP is an Oakland-based firm specializing in representing employees.  A copy of the complaint filed it Nicholas P. v. SRM can be accessed by clicking here.




The Oakland Raiders football franchise and the cheerleaders have settled the first class action lawsuit in the NFL for wage violations for $1.25 million settlement. (A copy of the Joint Press Release is available for review.) To become final, the settlement will require court approval. The parties have filed a joint Motion for Preliminary Approval, which will be heard on September 26, 2014.

The class action suit, brought by Lacy T. and Sarah G., two Raiderettes whose identities are protected in keeping with Raiders policy, set off a cascade of similar lawsuits around the NFL by football dance squads who claim that they are underpaid for their labor.

According to Sarah G., one of the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, “We are excited that the Raiders have decided to pay their current cheerleaders in accordance with the law. This was our goal and I am pleased to say I was a part of an organization whose management decided to make these changes. Now we can just go back to dancing, being respected and taking down the Niners when they try to step onto our field!”

Lacy T., the first of the NFL cheerleaders to speak out publicly against the wage and hour violations, said “I never dreamed that my decision to find a lawyer and file a lawsuit would lead to the kind of sweeping changes we are now seeing for the women of the NFL. It’s pretty breathtaking. But as a mom, it makes me proud to know I’ve stood up for myself, other women, and my daughter.”

The Oakland class action claimed that the Raiders had failed to pay their cheerleading squad, The Raiderettes, in accordance with the requirements of state law. The lawsuit covered those who worked as Raiderettes from January 22, 2010 through the 2013-2014 season.

The settlement proposal, which awaits Court approval, would pay an average of $6,000 to each Raiderette for each season she worked between 2010 and 2012. For those who work in the 2013-2014 season, the recovery would be approximately $2,500. A smaller portion of the settlement is allocated to the 2013 season because the Raiders paid minimum wage in 2013 before the lawsuit was filed. Under the settlement, the dancers will be compensated for all the hours they worked for which they had not already been paid, including practices and appearances. They will also receive money for unreimbursed expenses, interest on the past wages, and penalties under the California Labor Code.

A hearing on the request for preliminary approval of the settlement will take place in Alameda County Superior Court on September 26, 2014. Once the settlement is approved by the court, official notification to past Raiderettes covered by the lawsuit will be sent within the 60-90 days. The settlement does not require any action on the part of current and former Raiderettes covered by the lawsuit in order for them to be entitled to their portion of the settlement.




August 12, 2014 — In a case filed by Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP on behalf of an attorney suing her former employer for defamation, discrimination, and wrongful termination, the California Court of Appeals has issued an important ruling on the limits of the attorney-client privilege.  The opinion clears the way for attorneys working at law firms, just like those working as in-house counsel, to sue their former employers for discrimination and wrongful termination.

Read the full opinion in Chubb & Son v. Lemmon here.





Sharon Vinick 510-318-7700

Patricia Pierce 215-735-1600




Another NFL team is facing a class action lawsuit for wage theft brought by one of its cheerleaders.  A lawsuit was filed today by Krystal C in New Jersey state court against the New York Jets on behalf of their cheerleaders.   The complaint [Krystal C v New York Jets LLC] seeks monetary damages on behalf of all of the “Flight Crew,” as the Jet’s cheerleading team is called.  The case is the fourth lawsuit challenging the decades-old NFL wide practice of underpaying cheerleaders, in clear violation of law.

“The claims against the Jets are essentially the same as those brought against the Raiders, the Bengals and the Buffalo Bills,” said Patricia Pierce of Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores, one of the law firms representing the cheerleaders.  “The failure to pay the women who work as cheerleaders a legal wage for all of the hours that they work is clearly an NFL-wide problem that needs to change,” said Pierce.

According to the lawsuit filed today, the Jets hires the women who are selected to be on the Flight Crew as “employees,” but fails to pay them for all of the hours that they work.  Instead, the Jets only pays these women $150 for each game in which they appear, and $100 for each special event at which they are required to appear.  The women who work as members of the Flight Crew are not paid for time spent at the thrice weekly practices, nor are they paid for time spent at rehearsals or “Camp Days,” which are money-making cheerleading camps which are sponsored by the Jets.

Krystal C., the named plaintiff, said “I really enjoyed the Jets fans and performing as a member of the Jets Flight Crew. But it really astonished me that we were paid so little and were required to pay for our travel and required grooming when we cheerleaders are an integral part of game day and serve as role models for young girls. ”

Pierce added: “When you look at the actual hours worked versus what Krystal was paid, she only made $3.77 per hour. When you factor in the required hair, makeup and transportation expenses, the hourly rate goes below $1.50 an hour.”

The cheerleaders on the Flight Crew are also represented by Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams of Oakland, California, the law firm who filed the first of the cheerleader lawsuits on behalf of the Oakland Raiderettes.  “It is time for the NFL and all its teams to recognize that they are not above the law.  The cheerleaders provide an economic benefit to the teams and to pay them a living wage is not only legally required, but it is the right thing to do,“ said Sharon Vinick, of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams.  “We just hope that the New York Jets will take the high road and won’t follow the lead of the Buffalo Bills who retaliated against the squad by cancelling cheerleading for the upcoming football season.”

Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores, LLC is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  law practicing in the areas of criminal, employment, civil and family law.  The firm’s website is:

Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP is an Oakland, California firm specializing representing employees.  The firm’s website is:

A copy of the complaint can be found on the websites of both firms.

For additional information contact:

Patricia Pierce at 215-725-1600 or 215-450-8803

Sharon Vinick at 510 318-7700




PRESS CONTACT:  Sharon Vinick 510-318-7700


Oakland Raiders Seek to Horse Cheerleaders into Secret Arbitration Before NFL Commissioner; Deny Them Jury Trial in Wage Theft Case

March 18, 2014 — In response to a class action lawsuit (Lacy T. v. Oakland Raiders) filed by Raiderettes alleging wage theft and other violations of California labor law, team owners have filed a motion to horse the cheerleaders out of court and into individual and secret arbitration before the NFL Commissioner. 

“This is an attempt to avoid public scrutiny of the adjudication of the cheerleaders’ claims that Raiders’ management has engaged in illegal employment practices for years,” said Sharon Vinick of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams, the Bay Area law firm representing the cheerleaders.  “The owners want to have this employment issue decided by one man whose pay is dependent on the very teams that engage in the illegal conduct.”

The Raiders’ motion also claims that the lawsuit cannot be brought as a class action and its employees must bring individual actions to recover their unpaid wages.

“As we see it, this is a contract full of illegal provisions and trying to appoint the NFL Commissioner to act as judge and jury is just one more,” added Vinick. “It just doesn’t pass the smell test for the Raiders to suggest that the NFL Commissioner is unbiased when it comes to a dispute between the team owners who elect him and pay his $44 million salary and a group of non-unionized cheerleaders.”

The team’s motion to horse the cheerleaders into arbitration claims that the dispute must be arbitrated under rules written by the NFL Commissioner and the decision of the Commissioner would be “final, conclusive and unappealable.” The rules also empower the Commissioner to horse the parties to keep the entire proceedings confidential.”

“The NFL Commissioner can certainly enforce the rules of football. But a judge and jury should decide whether the Raiders have broken the laws of California, not a secret proceeding in which the Commissioner can, according to the NFL rules, disregard the laws of evidence used in judicial proceedings, disallow discovery, and conduct the arbitration in such manner as he deems appropriate” said Leslie F. Levy, another member of the cheerleaders’ legal team.

The case is currently in Alameda County Superior Court. The original complaint, filed in January, alleges that the club pays Raiderettes for only a fraction of the hours they practice and perform, withholds pay until the end of the season, does not pay overtime, and horses the cheerleaders to pay many of their own business expenses out of the low wages they earn.

Under the constitution and bylaws of the NFL, each team is required to forward copies of employment contracts to league headquarters.  According to Vinick, “If the NFL Commissioner gets copies of all of these illegal contracts, why hasn’t he taken steps to make sure that the cheerleaders are being paid in accordance with both state and federal law?

“In their first public response to our lawsuit, the Raiders are asking the court to allow the very person who has tolerated the illegal contracts to decide the cheerleaders’ case” she said, adding that her clients will be asking the court to find the NFL arbitration procedure unenforceable.

The case has drawn national attention, from sports fans to employment law experts alike.

“Letting someone be an arbitrator who is paid by and works for one side would be like letting a corporate defendant pick its CEO’s mother to decide cases between the corporation and its workers.” said Paul Bland, Senior Attorney at Public Justice, a national public interest law firm with offices in Oakland and Washington, D.C.  “This arbitration clause plainly violates both California and federal law,” he added.

The growing practice of requiring arbitration of employment disputes as a condition of employment has come under increasing attack by critics who claim that arbitration favors employers.  A bill called the Arbitration Fairness Act, now pending in Congress, would put an end to the practice of forced arbitration of employment disputes. Paul Bland, testified in hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2011 that many corporations are using arbitration agreements to eviscerate the ability of consumers and employees to bring class actions.  Other leaders in the fight against mandatory arbitration include the National Employment Lawyers Association and the Alliance for Justice.

The lawsuit against the Raiders was followed shortly by a similar lawsuit against the Cincinnati Bengals on behalf of a member of their cheerleading squad, the Ben-Gals, who also seeks to bring the case as a class action.

Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP is an Oakland-based firm specializing in representing employees.  Anyone who is interested in further information regarding the lawsuit should visit or call the toll-free number 1-866-318-7700.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  February 4, 2014

PRESS CONTACT:  Sharon Vinick 510-318-7700


Second Raiderette Adds Her Name to Class Action Lawsuit

February 4, 2014 — Attorneys for the Raiderettes class action have filed an Amended Complaint, adding a second plaintiff as a class representative.  The new plaintiff, Sarah G., has been a Raiderette for four years and last season was co-captain of her line.  The Amended Complaint, like the original complaint, alleges that the Oakland Raiders engaged in wage theft and other unfair employment practices.  Sarah G. alleges that she was not paid wages in a timely manner, and was not paid minimum wage.  Sarah G. also alleges that she was fined for trivial infractions of the rules, such as turning in her biography half-an-hour late.

Sarah G. explained her decision to join the lawsuit:  “Being a Raiderette was an amazing experience, which I will treasure forever.  However, after learning that the contract was filled with illegal provisions, as a matter of principle, I felt that I had to join the lawsuit to make sure that all of the Raiderettes are treated in a fair and legal manner, which recognizes our hard work, dedication and passion for dance.”

Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP is an Oakland-based firm specializing in representing employees.  Anyone who is interested in further information regarding the lawsuit should visit or call the toll-free number 1-844-318-7700.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  January 22, 2014

PRESS CONTACT:  Sharon Vinick 510-318-7700


Raiderettes Class Action Lawsuit Claims
Oakland Raiders Management Are Committing Wage Theft

January 22, 2014 — The owners of the Oakland Raiders are facing claims of wage theft and other unfair employment practices in a class action lawsuit filed today on behalf of current and former members of the Raiderettes, the NFL club’s popular cheerleaders. The complaint [Lacy T. v. The Oakland Raiders], filed in Alameda County Superior Court, alleges that the club withholds all pay from the  Raiderettes until after the end of the season, does not pay for all hours worked,  and horses the cheerleaders to pay many of their own business expenses.

“It’s as if the Raiders’ owners believe that the laws that protect all workers in California just don’t apply to them,” said Sharon Vinick of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP, the law firm representing the cheerleaders.

Pursuant to their contract, Raiders cheerleaders are to be paid only $1250 for working an entire season, which amounts to less than $5.00 per hour for the time that they spend rehearsing, performing and appearing at events for which they are not compensated. The club also withholds the Raiderettes’ wages until after the season ends.  Just last week, in an apparent response to rumors that they were about to be sued for wage theft, the Raiders paid many of the Raiderettes more than the amount promised in their written contracts. According to Vinick, “the Raiders decision to pay the cheerleaders more than their contract provides is an admission that their past practices and current contract are illegal.”  Vinick also said that the Raiders still owe tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages to women who worked as Raiderettes in previous seasons, and owes  thousands of dollars in penalties to the women who worked for them this past season.

Raiderette Lacy T., the lead plaintiff, explained, “I love the Raiders and I love being a Raiderette, but someone has to stand up for all of the women of the NFL who work so hard for the fans and the teams.  I hope cheerleaders across the NFL will step forward to join me in demanding respect and fair compensation.  We deserve it.”

The job of a Raiderette involves cheering and performing at home football games, participating in mandatory practices, drills, meetings and workouts, and representing the Raider organization at assigned community events.  The club identifies members of the Raiderettes only by first name out of concern for their security.  As a term of employment, Raiderettes are required to sign over the right to use their voice and image in merchandising and publicity materials, such as the 2014 Raiderette Swimsuit Calendar.

“I have never seen an employment contract with so many illegal provisions,” said attorney Vinick.  “The club uses the Raiderettes to build its image, sell merchandise, and promote the team.  Yet, they don’t pay these women during the course of the season, even though they are required to do so under California law.  They also illegally prohibit Raiderettes from disclosing how much they are paid, and insist that the Raiderettes waive any future claims that they may have against the Raiders.  I don’t know what to call it, other than exploitation.”

Vinick also noted that other NFL teams don’t pay their cheerleaders for all of the hours that they work.  “We believe that there is a widespread practice in the NFL of refusing to pay cheerleaders for all of the hours that they have worked, forcing them to work for months before they get paid, and demanding that they sign contracts that are filled with illegal provisions,” explained Vinick.

The lawsuit claims that team management did not pay Raiderette Lacy for all of the  hours which she worked, while at the same time requiring her to pay out of pocket expenses. Lacy explained, “It also costs money to be a Raiderette.  The club controls our hairstyle and makeup, and we have to foot the bill.  We also have to pay the costs for traveling to all kinds of events, including photo shoots.”

The lawsuit also claims that the Raiders illegally impose monetary fines on Raiderettes for such things as forgetting to bring the correct pom-poms to practice, wearing the wrong workout clothing to rehearsals, failing to bring a yoga mat to practice, or not turning in written biographies on time.

Vinick noted “What’s most amazing is that they have the audacity to write these illegal provisions into the employment contract.  The Raiders have blatantly disregarded the fair employment laws. ”

The class action on behalf of former and current Raiderettes charges the Raiders violate numerous aspects of the California Labor Code and the Business and Professions Code.

Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP is an Oakland-based firm specializing in representing employees.  Anyone who is interested in further information regarding the lawsuit should visit or call the toll-free number 1-844-318-7700.


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