October 11-17, 2006

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By Patricia Lynn Henley

Filing a McSuit

The multinational McDonald's Corp. is now an additional defendant in an ongoing wage-and-hour class-action lawsuit against Robert Mendez, chief owner of seven Mickey D franchises in Sonoma County. "By adding the corporation, we're hoping MacDonald's will realize they too must improve their practices," says Marin-based attorney Karen Carrera, whose efforts on behalf of low-income Hispanic women workers were profiled in these pages Sept. 13. Filed by the Talamantes/Villegas/Carrera firm and the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, the suit alleges that employees were routinely underpaid, forced to work without rest and meal breaks, and required to put in time "off the clock" without pay. McDonald's Corp. ran the stores before selling them to Mendez, and employees allege the infractions occurred under both ownership situations, says Carrera. In a separate case, Carrera's firm and Legal Aid of Marin filed a similar class-action suit against Subway Sandwich restaurants owned by Kuldeep Sidhu in San Rafael, Novato, Santa Rosa and Martinez.

Counsel for kids

A single Sonoma County deputy district attorney will prosecute every aspect of all child sexual and physical abuse cases, once the county gets an expected $155,655 grant from the state. "It's pretty much a done thing," says Assistant District Attorney Larry Scoufos. "We hope to get somebody onboard in the next six to eight weeks." One year's salary and benefits will be paid by the state's Vertical Prosecution Program. In vertical prosecution, cases of a certain type are always tried by the same attorney, creating expertise in that particular area. Plus, victims are represented by the same prosecutor each time, no matter what the level of legal proceedings. "The relationship is much more of a rapport for the victim and prosecutor than if two or three [deputy district attorneys] are involved," Scoufos says. Sonoma County already has a vertical prosecution program for statutory rape.

Cool on warm

Napa County's preliminary general plan update will include the phrases "greenhouse gasses" and "climate change" but not "global warming." These wording nuances were created by the county's General Plan Steering Committee, a group of 21 citizens who began meeting in July 2005, says planning director Hillary Gitelman. The group is about half-way through the process of revamping the document that will guide future development decisions. Committee members recently discussed how to deal with global warming in the document but couldn't agree. "They preferred the terms 'climate change' and 'greenhouse gasses,' but the term 'global warming,' they didn't like it," Gitelman notes. A draft plan with this wording will be issued early next year. "I'm sure we'll get comments from the public on these terms," Gitelman says.

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