Onni fired general counsel for refusing to work from office: Lawsuit

Joe Rose said Downtown LA developer violated state and city stay-at-home orders

Los Angeles /
Aug.August 12, 2020 10:17 PM
Wilshire Courtyard, Onni CEO Rossan De Cotitiis, and Times Mirror square (Credit: Onni Group)
Wilshire Courtyard, Onni CEO Rossan De Cotitiis, and Times Mirror square (Credit: Onni Group)

Do quarantine orders keep your boss from ordering you into the office?

Onni Group’s former general counsel said they should, and has filed a lawsuit against the developer to argue his point.

Joe Rose said Onni fired him in June after he refused to work in its Downtown Los Angeles office, citing coronavirus concerns and his wife’s diabetes.

Rose filed the suit last week in L.A. County Superior Court, alleging wrongful termination and employment discrimination because of disability.

Rose started working with the company in May 2019, according to the complaint, and began working from home in mid-March during city and state stay-at-home orders.

“Defendants wished to reopen their offices after initially closing their business due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to the complaint, referring to Onni. But Rose “made it clear” that failure to follow stay-at-home orders “would result in an unsafe space for employees. Defendants did not appreciate this, and these complaints were a substantial motivating reason for plaintiff’s termination.”

According to the lawsuit, Rose’s wife is diabetic. By making him work in the office, Onni was denying him a “reasonable accommodation to continue working from home in order to keep his wife safe from possible exposure to Covid-19,” the suit said.

An attorney for Onni said the company “vehemently denies Joe Rose’s allegations, which it believes are entirely without merit. Onni will vigorously defend itself against Mr. Rose’s lawsuit,” said the attorney, Grant Alexander, a partner at Allen Matkins.

Alexander declined to say what Onni’s policy was on requiring workers to show up at the office.

Requiring employees to work from the office is probably a violation of L.A. County law, said Kelly Scott, a lawyer at Ervin Cohen & Jessup.

“The state has delegated the issue to the county. And the county says you’re supposed to allow people to work from home when possible and practical,” Scott said.

Scott, who is not involved in the case, said that the county has done little to enforce the law. Instead, workers —and employers — are at the whims of which stay-at-home order the county enforces.

“Right now the county’s enforcement is focused on businesses opened in violation of pandemic orders, or businesses not requiring people to wear masks,” Scott added.

Rose’s lawsuit comes as Onni continues to expand its L.A. presence, while facing obstacles on the way.

A lawsuit filed last month accuses the developer of trying to steal federal Paycheck Protection Program funds that were provided to a tenant, a claim Onni has denied. Also, the company defaulted on a $400 million loan for the Wilshire Courtyard office complex in the Miracle Mile area.

Onni’s portfolio also includes the former Los Angeles Times building in downtown, which it is redeveloping, and a planned 14-story Hollywood office complex.


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
Prologis CEO Hamid Moghadam and 1920 West Baseline Road (Google Maps)

Prologis signs digital service firm to sprawling lease in Inland Empire

Prologis signs digital service firm to sprawling lease in Inland Empire
Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union dropped the asking on their Sherman Oaks mansion, a year after buying big in Hidden Hills. (Getty, Hilton & Hyland)

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union drop asking on Sherman Oaks manse

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union drop asking on Sherman Oaks manse
A photo of the Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November 2018 (Getty)

Slow burn: Homeowners lose zeal to rebuild after wildfire season

Slow burn: Homeowners lose zeal to rebuild after wildfire season
(Google Maps)

Here’s what tenants are paying at Torrance Towne Center mall

Here’s what tenants are paying at Torrance Towne Center mall
Beyond Meat founder and CEO Ethan Brown, Hackamn Capital Partner's Michael Hackman and renderings of 888 Douglas. (Beyond Meat, Hackman, 888 Douglas)

Beyond Meat inks 280K sf lease at Hackman’s 888 Douglas

Beyond Meat inks 280K sf lease at Hackman’s 888 Douglas
Mayor Eric Garcetti (Getty, iStock)

LA mulls tougher Covid restrictions on malls, retailers

LA mulls tougher Covid restrictions on malls, retailers
Faring CEO Jason Illoulian and blueprints of the complex. (City of Carson, Jason Iloulian)

Faring plans massive residential complex in Carson

Faring plans massive residential complex in Carson
The future of San Francisco’s Oceanwide Center is up in the air again (Getty, Foster and Partners)

Contractors pull out as Oceanwide Center sale falls through again

Contractors pull out as Oceanwide Center sale falls through again
arrow_forward_ios

The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

Loading...