Our cases

February 29, 2019

RENOWNED ARTIST AND TEACHER STEPHEN BUESCHER SUES AMERICAn CONSERVATORY THEATER FOR RACE DISCRIMINATION, HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT, AND RETALIATION

On Tuesday, February 19, 2019 Medina Orthwein LLP filed a complaint on behalf of Stephen Buescher in the San Francisco Superior Court. The complaint alleges that during his ten-year career, Mr. Buescher — a highly accomplished African American actor, director, and instructor — was discriminated against because of his race by prominent theater company, the American Conservatory Theater (“ACT”). Mr. Buescher claims that ACT leadership created a racially hostile environment and has a pattern and practice of systematically discriminating against Black artists, faculty, staff, and students.

Mr. Buescher’s complaint details ACT’s practice of institutionalized racism through racial profiling in its theaters, underfunding and underrepresentation of Black artists, demeaning and degrading racially stereotyped roles forced on Black actors, and disparate treatment of Black artists, faculty, staff, and students compared to their white counterparts, among other disturbing practices. ACT is an institution that internally justifies and maintains racist practices while outwardly portraying a progressive and inclusive institution by showcasing and exploiting Black artists’ work.

In response to Mr. Buescher’s attempts to address the hostile and discriminatory treatment he and other Black participants at ACT experienced, ACT leadership retaliated against Mr. Buescher by subjecting him to increased scrutiny and hostility; isolating and excluding him from participation in productions featuring his work; and outright failing to pay him for his artistic work. Furthermore, ACT leadership ignored Mr. Buescher and others’ complaints and labeled whistleblowers as “trouble makers.” For Mr. Buescher, this resulted in lost income and opportunities.

“There is a glaring contradiction between the regard that ACT and similar institutions profess to have for Black theater artists and their work, and the way Black artists are treated behind the scenes.” said Felicia Medina, Founding Partner of Medina Orthwein LLP. “Mr. Buescher seeks to hold ACT accountable for its discriminatory practices in the hope that the Conservatory can grow into a more equitable and supportive environment for community members of color — students, staff, faculty, artists, and audience members alike. Contrary to what ACT may claim, it has not remedied the problem since Mr. Buescher was constructively discharged last year. The leadership continues to live in its many blind spots and has not empowered recently formed diversity committees to change ACT’s racists culture.”

A 2018 open letter by ACT students shared with ACT boards and faculty in support of Mr. Buescher confirms that the Conservatory’s racist culture is pervasive. In the letter, the = students explained that, “We are disgusted and distraught about the incidents leading up to Stephen Buescher’s choice to leave ACT, and we acknowledge that this is not at all an isolated incident. Many of the students of color, now and in the past, have expressed the micro-aggressions, discrimination, and blatant racism they experienced during their time at this institution, cries that have so often fell on deaf ears. The constant traumatization of Black faculty, staff, and students...is outright disturbing.”

“The treatment our client and others at ACT have endured as a result of the Conservatory’s systemic racist culture is unacceptable,” said Kevin Love Hubbard, Senior Associate at Medina Orthwein LLP. “We are calling on ACT to #LiftTheCurtain, institute real change, and be a leader for equity in their field.”

Download the Complaint

Download the Press Release

January 22, 2019

NEW PLAINTIFF IN CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST AC TRANSIT FOR DISCRIMINATION AND RETALIATION AGAINST PREGNANT AND BREASTFEEDING WOMEN

On Tuesday, January 22, 2019, Medina Orthwein LLP filed an amended class action lawsuit in Alameda Superior Court against Alameda-Contra Costa District (AC Transit) alleging pregnancy discrimination and failure to accommodate lactation needs. The amended complaint adds another Plaintiff and a Private Attorneys General Act claim.

Press Contact: Felicia Medina, fmedina@medinaorthwein.com

Link to Complaint

Link to Press Release

January 7, 2019

MEDINA ORTHWEIN LLP JOINS TRANSGENDER PRISONER’S #METOOBEHINDBARS LAWSUIT

Civil Rights Community Hopeful Governor Newsom’s Administration Will Implement Policies to Protect Transgender Prisoners in California

On January 7, 2019, Medina Orthwein LLP filed an amended complaint on behalf of Candice Crowder in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The complaint alleges that Ms. Crowder – a transgender woman of color who has been incarcerated in men’s prisons since January 2015 – has been horrifically beaten, raped, and knifed while in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Press Contact: Jennifer Orthwein, jorthwein@medinaorthwein.com

Link to Complaint

Link to Press Release

December 31, 2018

CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST AC TRANSIT FOR DISCRIMINATING AND RETALIATING AGAINST PREGNANT AND BREASTFEEDING WOMEn

AC TRANSIT FEMALE BUS OPERATORS SYSTEMICALLY FORCED TO DRIVE ENGORGED, DRY UP, OR GO ON UNPAID LEAVE

On Friday, December 28, Medina Orthwein LLP filed a class action lawsuit in Alameda Superior Court against Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) alleging pregnancy discrimination and failure to accommodate under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Leave Law (PDLL). Nikki McNaulty, the named plaintiff and putative Class Representative, alleges she was denied reasonable accommodations for her pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, including lactation needs, and was instead placed on multiple forced and unpaid leaves of absences. AC Transit’s discrimination and retaliation had negative financial, emotional, and physical impacts on Ms. McNaulty and her family.

“AC Transit is behind the curve of the transportation industry when it comes to accommodating its pregnant and lactating workers. AC must remediate their wrongs and do right by its female employees,” said Attorney Felicia Medina, founding partner of Medina Orthwein LLP. “By filing this class action lawsuit, Ms. McNaulty is standing up for all women seeking to break down barriers and change workplace cultures that punish mothers and harm families.”

Ms. McNaulty had three pregnancies at AC Transit, the first of which ended in a miscarriage.  Ms. McNaulty alleges she is not the only driver to suffer from such an experience as a result of AC Transit’s practice of refusing accommodations, especially to bus operators. During her second pregnancy she asked for accommodations and was denied and instead forced on leave three months before it was medically necessary for her to stop working. According to Ms. McNaulty, AC Transit has a policy of denying accommodations to pregnant women, and as a result of the company’s culture, women often take extended unpaid leaves in order to carry their pregnancy to term. Pregnant and breastfeeding bus operators are subjected to carbon monoxide poisoning due to old equipment and subjected to other dangerous conditions while in the field.

AC Transit refuses to provide breastfeeding mothers with breaks and locations that would allow them to continue to lactate and feed their babies for up to a year, as required by state law.  The policy creates a culture in which women are forced to “drive engorged or dry up.” When Ms. McNaulty asked to extend lactation accommodations for a year – the time doctors recommend for breastfeeding – her pay was diminished. During her second pregnancy, she was forced on another unpaid leave of absence.  Ms. McNaulty alleges that such practices are common and that the emotional and financial toll on pregnant and breastfeeding women is overwhelming.

Current and former employees of AC Transit who have been denied pregnancy and/or lactation accommodations, were forced on leave or who have information on this issue, are encouraged to contact Medina Orthwein LLP at 510-823-2040 or email admin@medinaorthwein.com for investigation purposes.

Press Contact: fmedina@medinaorthwein.com

Link to Complaint

January 7, 2018

psychologist says transgender advocacy led to demotion

Medina Orthwein represents State Prison Psychologist, Lori Jespersen, in her discrimination and whistleblower claims against the California Department of Corrections for exposing LGBTQ and Prisoner Abuse.

December 12, 2017

BET & Viacom SEttle discrimination suit with ex-programming head

May 4, 2017

Hollywood Executive, zola mashariki, Files Lawsuit Against Viacom, BET, and stephen hill

Medina Orthwein represents a former BET executive in her claims against the media conglomerate.  Ms. Mashariki stated the discrimination she endured was rooted in misogynistic culture.  


in the community

January 29, 2019

Join us at BALIF’s inaugural QTPOC leadership brunch

Join us at Hopscotch in Oakland on Sunday, February 10th for Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF)’s Inaugural QTPOC Leadership Brunch. This event is for individuals who identify as as person of color and a member of the LGBTQI community. We thank our allies in the intersectional racial justice movement for respecting this request and for their love and support! Space is limited so RSVP soon by emailing balif@balif.org.

October 25, 2018

Felicia Medina Speaking on Equal Pay Class actions @ Harris Martin’s Women’s Issues in Litigation Conference, Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel

September 22, 2018

MEDINA ORTHWEIN LLP Volunteers at BALIF’s and the SF LGBT Center’s Community Legal Clinic

September 13-16, 2018

MEDINA ORTHWEIN LLP advocates for lgbtqi rights at the conference of california bar ASSOCIATIONS

Founding partners, Felicia Medina and Jennifer Orthwein, spent the weekend advocating for the LGBTQI community.

August 9, 2018

MEDINA ORTHWEIN LLP ENDORSES NATIONAL PRISON STRIKE AND PLEDGES SUPPORT

Medina Orthwein LLP is proud to endorse and support the National Prison Strike. The strike, which will take place from August 21 to September 9, 2018, was called in response to the April 15, 2018 violence at the Lee Correctional Institution and the inhumane conditions found in prisons throughout the United States.  For more information about the strike and how to get involved, please visit the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee’s website at https://incarceratedworkers.org/campaigns/prison-strike-2018.

April 10, 2018

jennifer orthwein RECEIVES the pride freedom award

San Francisco Pride named founding partner Jennifer Orthwein as a 2018 Pride Freedom Award recipient for outstanding contributions to advancing civil rights and freedom for LGBTQI people.

February 6, 2018

Reentry Legal Services: Representing Former Prisoners in SSI Advocacy webinar

Jennifer Orthwein will be a panelist on this informative webinar, hosted by the Legal Aid Association of California.  The event will focus the mental health-related requirements for disability benefits eligibility, with particular applicability to certain vulnerable populations: prisoners who have been adversely impacted by solitary confinement and transgender prisoners who have been traumatized by their prison experience. The panelists will address special issues that may arise in working with these clients. The program will also describe how legal services providers can go into correctional facilities to prepare pre-release Social Security applications.  Please visit the Legal Aid Association of California website for more information.

October 13, 2017

empowered trans woman online summit

Jennifer Orthwein and Felicia Medina sit with host, Cassie Brighter, for a segment on protecting your rights in the workplace and understanding the internalization of employment discrimination and its effects on the psyche.  

October 10, 2017

{S}Heros: #Smashtheglass": a conference for women in technology

Felicia Medina and Ella Zhang from Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP give keynote speech on creating an equitable work for women in technology at the Ohio conference.

September 28, 2017

Trailblazing Latina Alumna of Morrison Foerster

Felicia Medina joined Executive Director of the California Bar Foundation, Sonia Gonzales; Associate General Counsel at Uber Technologies, Angela Padilla; and the Hon. Maria Rivera, Associate Justice of the First District Court of Appeal for a panel on their experience in the legal field and their trajectory from their time at Morrison Foerster to their current roles. 

August 1, 2017

From the streets to the courts: fighting for lgbtq rights

The Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center invited Felicia Medina to be part their brown bag lecture series to discuss innovative legal and grassroots strategies to defend and promote LGBTQ rights.

June 8, 2017

The Hundreds of seniors wait for an Application to be considered for Subsidized Housing in Oakland 

Jennifer Orthwein talks to ABC7 about witnessing the unbelievable lines.

 


firm granD opening

May 2, 2017

Felicia Medina, Jennifer Orthwein Announce Medina Orthwein LLP, a Civil Rights and Public Interest Law Firm in Oakland

Practice focused on employment discrimination, wage and hour, whistleblower protections and civil rights.