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A SeaWorld Employee was fired recently, after working for 45 years at the San Diego Location. Apparently, she was fired after filing environmental concerns to management, though she only did this after notifying management about potential environmental issues on site, part of her job as Environmental Chief.
According to 6 Park, SeaWorld claims that Shari Sehlhorst was only fired “due to restructuring,” and not because Sehlhorst had raised some questions about her environmental concerns days and weeks prior to her being fired.
Sehlhorst is filing with the United States District Court in California for years of unpaid overtime. She began working at the park in 1976, and has worked in multiple departments and with multiple titles. According to Yahoo, “she started working at Sea World in 1976 as an admission and ride attendant. After holding several other roles, she joined the Environmental, Health & Safety Department in 1997. Her last title was environmental leader.” Reportedly, she has been known to work during her lunch breaks, as well as 6 to 7 day weeks at an average of 10 to 14 hours per day. That’s an average of 32 hours per week of overtime, over the last 45 years.
The plaintiff is accusing SeaWorld of failing to accurately keep time records, claiming that “the defendant knew that Shari worked overtime without adequate compensation” and that the company “intentionally failed and refused to pay her overtime wages at required fees”
Apparently, Sehlhorst was fired and then replaced with a young woman “in her early 20s,” who would be paid a lower salary. SeaWorld has been accused of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as the California Labor Code, including the age discrimination clause of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
SeaWorld has since filed to motion that the case be brought to arbitration instead of court, and though Sehlhorst and her lawyers disagree to the arbitration movement, the court has set a hearing for January 2022.
The plaintiff has chronicled the last few months of her SeaWorld career, noting injured neck muscles and tendons from a work injury in September, which then moved her into “modified duty.” Additionally, in October Sehlhorst asked coworkers to not hose down a road because the dirty water might run-off into the nearby Mission Bay. After notifying management when the action had been taken anyway, she was fired approximately a week later.
Sehlhorst is filing with her husband, Dan Sehlhorst, as a co-plaintiff. Dan was another SeaWorld employee who was suspended during the pandemic, and he was told that would be able to go back to work later on. However, he was not rehired because of his wife. He was suddenly “not being considered for the project manager position even though he was qualified for it and was performing the same position…”
According to Business Insider, Shari Sehlhorst filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision is allegedly a “substantial motivating reason…” for SeaWorld’s decision.