May 6, 2015 / 7:35 PM / 4 years ago

Life Alert accused of sexual harassment in ex-worker's lawsuit

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The maker of Life Alert, known for its television ad slogan “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” has been sued by a former sales manager who claims he was fired because of his age and cancer diagnosis, and his complaints about “rampant” sexual harassment in the company’s Manhattan office.

In a $7 million lawsuit filed on Wednesday in the New York state court in Manhattan, Leon Hayblum claimed that Life Alert Emergency Response Inc illegally terminated him without warning last Nov. 10, when he was 71, after a dozen years on the job.

Hayblum said this was done in retaliation for his “years” of complaints about the alleged harassment and Life Alert’s alleged misclassification of sales staff as independent contractors, and because he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He said his radiation therapy treatment did not keep him from working.

Life Alert is based in Encino, California, and sells wearable devices intended to help elderly or disabled people call for assistance when they face medical or other emergencies.

Gary McLaughlin, a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld representing Life Alert, declined to comment. The plaintiff and his lawyer were not immediately available for further comment.

Hayblum claimed he repeatedly saw the general manager of Life Alert’s Manhattan office sexually harass female employees, including Hayblum’s wife, and that it was “common practice” for the manager to proposition them with promotions, perquisites and leads, and punish those who refused his advances.

The plaintiff also said Isaac Shepher, Life Alert’s chief executive, dismissed his complaints about the alleged harassment of female sales representatives, saying “nobody is forcing them to stay,” and specifically his wife, saying “Israeli girls know how to protect themselves.”

Hayblum is seeking damages for Life Alert’s alleged violations of state and city human rights laws and state labor law, and unpaid sums to which he said he was owed by contract.

The case is Hayblum v Life Alert Emergency Response Inc et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 154464/2015.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Andrew Hay

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