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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
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‘Sabrina, Teenage Witch,’ Faces Labor Suit

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Melissa Joan Hart's cupcake shop forced a black manager to work more than 60 hours a week without breaks, stiffed her for overtime, and prohibited her from wearing black clothes, "because 'black on black' did not look appropriate," then fired her when she complained, the woman says in a discrimination and labor complaint.

Hart, 35, gained fame as the star of the TV series "Clarissa Explains it All," and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch."

Shana Kharineh sued Sweet Harts, Melissa Joan Hart, and Sweet Harts co-owners Dean Cutler and Matt Epstein, in Superior Court.

Kharineh says that though she was hired as a manager, she spent most of her time on nonmanagerial duties, was not allowed to hire or fire anyone, and was held to different standards than non-black employees.

"Mrs. Kharineh was given a special dress code based on her race," the complaint states. "Mrs. Kharineh is an African America female and was told she could not wear black because 'black on black' did not look appropriate according to the defendants. None of the other white employees were held to his same standard.

"Mrs. Kharineh further alleges that she was held to a different employment standard than her fellow white employees based on her race. Mrs. Kharineh's work was scrutinized in a different manner than her white coworkers. Mrs. Kharineh was expected to work longer hours for less compensation than other white managers."

Kharineh says she was hired on May 4, and had to work more than 60 hours a week without meal and rest breaks, and without overtime pay. Her salary of $450 a week was supposed to be increased to $750 after 60 days. In June, she "complained about having to work up to 14 hours a day without breaks and without overtime and requested a raise. Mrs. Kharineh was told by defendants that they were trying to keep their payroll down, but they would look into the matter."

By July 20, she had been given a raise to $18.75 an hour, but was the store's only manager, Kharineh says, but the defendants would not allow her to hire additional help.

"Even though the defendants refused to allow the plaintiff to hire additional help, towards the end of July 2011, the defendants began berating and humiliating the plaintiff and complaining that she was not doing her job properly, that no one wanted to work with her, and that when she bent over her underwear would show," the complaint states.

She was fired in August.

"Ms. Kharineh is informed and believes the real reason she was terminated was because of her race. Ms. Kharineh is informed and believes that she was replaced by a less qualified white employee. Ms. Kharineh also believes she was terminated because of her complaint regarding being forced to work through her breaks and not being compensated for overtime," the complaint states.

She seeks lost wages, punitive damages for wrongful firing, discrimination, retaliation and labor code violations, attorney's fees and costs.

She is represented by Stephen Madoni.

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