Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox. was prominently featured in the recent hit docu-series "The Last Dance" about Michael Jordan and the Bulls' dynasty. Reinsdorf now finds himself in hot legal water as a complaint has been filed against him in California. Here's a breakdown of the case:
The plaintiff is Tiana Waters, an African-American home health care worker hired by Reinsdorf to "render household services related to the care of his [ailing] sister," Judith.
The Defendants in this case are Jerry Reinsdorf and unnamed defendants labeled DOES 1-50, who Ms. Waters believes are all responsible in some manner for the alleged events that caused the injuries and damages to her. Ms. Waters will seek leave of the Court so she can amend her complaint and reveal the names of DOES 1-50 and their capacities. Mr. Reinsdorf and DOES 1-50 were Ms. Waters' employers or other persons acting on behalf of the employer as defined by the Labor and Industrial Welfare Commission Order No.15 and Labor Code Section 558 and are therefore purportedly liable to Ms. Waters.
The Jurisdiction and Venue:
The Court has personal jurisdiction over Mr. Reinsdorf as he is either a citizen of the state, has sufficient minimum contacts in the state, or intentionally avails himself of the California market. Venue is proper because Mr. Reinsdorf conducts business in Los Angeles and the claims stem from Los Angeles.
Mr. Reinsdorf hired Ms. Waters as a full-time employee in order to take care of his sister, Judth. During her time as an employee, Ms. Waters reported to Dr. Irwin Lehrhoff, an agent of Mr. Reinsdorf. Ms. Waters used medical tools and supplies provided in order to monitor Ms. Reinsdorf's health as well as provide further care.
Ms. Waters worked at least five (5) days per week (Monday-Friday) from 7:00am - 7:00pm, occasionally working Saturdays and at times 24-48 hours straight. After a few months, Judith's daughter, Lara, came to live with Judith and began controlling the home healthcare workers including Ms. Waters. Dr. Lehrhoff was aware of and authorized Lara's conduct.
During her employment, Ms. Waters was not encouraged to take a lunch break and when she did, was interrupted by the defendant who told her to perform work-related tasks during breaks. Ms. Waters did not receive compensation for the work done on her breaks. Ms. Waters was also required to track and email her hours the Katie Kermle, an assistant to the defendant.
In July 2021, Lara requested Ms. Waters wear a baby monitor at all times or sit beside Judith during her shift to prevent her from experiencing seizures. Ms. Waters protested stating that stopping a seizure could result in death. Lara rejected this rationale and attacked Ms. Waters' culture stating her culture does not know when to "shut up" and should do their job.
Ms. Waters brought this to the attention of Dr. Lehrhoff, however it changed nothing. Shortly after, Ms. Waters was fired. Ms. Waters states that she was incorrectly classified as an independent contractor rather than an employee which allowed the defendant to underpay her and deprive her of certain benefits given to employees.
Willful Misclassification (Labor Code §226.8) - Ms. Waters alleges that Mr. Reinsdorf wilfully misclassifed her as an independent contractor rather than an employee becauseMr. Reinsdorf and his agents retained control over the manner and means of accomplishing Ms. Waters business results such that an employer-employee relationship was established.
Failure to Pay Compensation Due Upon Terminaion (Labor Code §201) - Ms. Waters alleged that she was not paid for all of the hours worked during her employment under Mr. Reinsdorf and alleged Mr. Reinsdorf willfully did not pay her after being fired.
Failure to Pay all Wages for Ovetime (Labor Code §§519/1194) - Ms. Waters alleges that the defendant required and permitted her to work 77 (seventy-seven) hours per week and then failed to pay for the overtime associated with those hours.
Failure to Provide Accurate Wage Statements (Labor Code §226) - Ms. Water alleges that the defendant failed to provide her with timely and accurate wage statements breaking down her gross salary, total hours, deductions made, and name and address of the employer. Ms. Waters also claims this was done knowingly and intentionally.
Failure to Provide Rest Break (Labor Code §226.7) - Ms. Waters alleges that the defendant consistently interrupted her breaks and never encouraged Ms. Waters to take the break entitled to by law.
Failure to Provide Meal Break (Labor Code §§226.7/512) - Ms. Waters alleges that she was not encouraged to and was interrupted during her lunch breaks.
Waiting Time (Labor Code §§202/203) - Ms. Waters alleges that she has not been promptly paid following her termination of her employment on July 15, 2022
Unfair Competition (Business and Professions Code §17200) - Ms. Waters alleges that the misclassification as an independent contractor rather than an employer to avoid obligations of employee-protections is unfair and unlawful.
Monetary Remedies Sought:
For general damages of approximately $250,000.00;
For special damages of approximately $250,000.00;
For punitive damages of approximately $250,000.00
Evan Mattel is a 2L at Hofstra Law, Vice President of Hofstra's Sports and Entertainment Law Society, and Representative for the New York State Bar Association's Entertainment and Sports Law Section. He can be found on Twitter @Evan_Mattel21.
Evan uncovered this lawsuit with Conduct's Jason Morrin. Jason is a Law Clerk (pending Bar admission) at Zumpano, Patricios, & Popok. He can be found on Twitter @Jason_Morrin.