Happy New Year: A Look at the Top Ten Stories of 2010
December 29, 2010

As 2011 is upon us, glassBYTEs.com™/AGRR magazine has taken a look back at the top headlines of 2010. Following is the ranking of the most popular stories of the year.

1.  Guardian Forms Joint Venture to Serve Automotive Retail Glass Market; Partners Include Former PGW and GlasPro/Elite Execs:
Many were both surprised and curious when Guardian announced in September that it has formed a joint partnership to grow its retail auto glass business. Even more surprising to many was the fact that the partners in the joint venture were several well-known industry players, including former Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW) executives Jim Latch and Marc Talbert, long with former GlasPro/Elite Auto Glass founders Jerry Ray and Neil Smith.

2. Glass Emporium Owner Mehrdad Hakimian Found Guilty; Says Auditing Procedures Have Been Put in Place to Correct "Issues Underlying the Charges":
If you read glassBYTEs.com™/AGRR magazine daily, you’ve been following this case with us for nearly three years since the charges against Glass Emporium owner Mehrdad Hakimian, vice president Emma Deguzman and several other employees were filed in December 2007.

And you’ll notice as you continue to scan our top-ten list that stories associated with this case come up several times on the list. But none was as well-read as the announcement in March that Hakimian had been found guilty during a federal trial that extended over the course of three weeks. Hakimian began serving a 3.5-year prison sentence on September 3 and also was fined $150,000.

3. Two Arrested in Fort Myers, Fla., for Allegedly "Peddling" Auto Glass Work Without a License:
Until this year, “peddling” wasn’t a term you heard much in the auto glass industry. But it became a common one this year after this particular story broke about two gentleman in Florida who were arrested for allegedly “peddling” windshield replacement services without a license. The two were working for Tag Promotions, a marketing firm, at the time, and, though one of those arrested advised glassBYTEs.com™/AGRR magazine that he was working for Coast to Coast Auto Glass at the time, the company denied a relationship with Tag at the time of the story.

4. Class Action Suit Filed Against Safelite Solutions for Failure to Compensate CSRs with Overtime Pay:
Seeking overtime pay through court cases seems to have been a popular topic this year—with suits arising for related items against Coast to Coast Auto Glass, State Farm and others, but none has been so popular from a news standpoint as the suit filed in August against Safelite Solutions. In the case, the plaintiffs (which include both current and former employees) allege that each day as they start their shifts at Safelite Solutions, CSRs are required to spend several minutes each day booting up their computers, but that the time spent doing this is not included in their work hours each week. As of press time, Safelite had denied the allegations and pre-trial preparations were underway.

5. Glass Emporium VP Pleads Guilty to Illegal Immigration-Related Charges; Insurance Fraud Charges Against Her Dismissed, According to Court Documents:
As previously noted, the Glass Emporium insurance fraud case has been a popular one among all fronts—and just prior to the guilty charge of company president Mehrdad Hakimian, the court announced that company vice president had agreed to a plea bargain. DeGuzman pleaded guilty to charges related to harboring illegal aliens through her work at the company, according to court documents filed in the case, and, the remaining charges related to insurance fraud and engaging conspiracy to commit insurance fraud against her were dismissed. She was later sentenced to three years’ probation and a $2,000 fine.

6. Safelite Charged with Sexual Harassment, Retaliation, by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
Within weeks of the filing of an overtime pay suit against Safelite Solutions (see No. 4 above), the company also found itself in the midst of a suit alleging that a human resources manager had committed sexual harassment and retaliation at its Enfield, N.C., facility against a former employee. The suit, filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), charges the company with subjecting a female employee to a hostile work environment because of her sex and discharging her in retaliation for complaining about the allegedly sexually hostile work environment, according to court documents. Safelite has since denied the allegations.

7. Hakimian on Trial by Jury in Oakland, Calif.; Glass Emporium Owner is Accused of Wire Fraud and Harboring Illegal Aliens, Among Other Charges:
The third and final Glass Emporium story to make the top-ten list was the March 10 story that the trial was underway, featuring some of the prominent witnesses on the stands at the trial. Hakimian, who was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud; wire fraud; harboring illegal aliens; obstruction of justice; conspiracy to commit visa fraud; and visa fraud, found himself up against a lengthy witness list, including several former employees, investigators from several insurance companies, including both State Farm and Alpha Insurance, LYNX Services director of operations Paul McFarland and Safelite Solutions director of contract administration Tom Reid.

8. Cascade Auto Glass Pleads Guilty to Attempted Insurance Fraud; Allegedly Billed Farmers from Non-Existent Office:
In May, Vancouver, Wash.-based Cascade Auto Glass pleaded guilty to attempted insurance fraud for allegedly attempting to bill Farmers Insurance from a non-existent office that actually was just a storage unit located in a rural area, raising the interest of many glassBYTEs.com™/AGRR magazine readers. As interesting as the news itself was, even more interesting to some was how the fraud was discovered—Rich Roesler, a spokesperson for the Washington State Insurance Commissioner, advised glassBYTEs that Safelite Solutions, acting as glass claims administrator for Farmers, had discovered the initial irregularity.

Unlike some of the other insurance fraud cases that have arisen in the auto glass industry, in this case the corporation itself pled guilty to the attempted fraud charge as part of a plea bargain—and therefore wasn’t charged with actual fraud. The company was required to pay a $1,000 fine, $500 victim penalty assessment and $200 in court costs.

9. Seven Former PGW Employees File Suit Against Company; Allege They Were Let Go Due to Age Discrimination:
When glassBYTEs.com™ compiled its list of the top-ten stories for 2009, one particular company made the list prominently numerous times—Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW). During that year, the company had made several rounds of layoffs and closed some facilities, drawing the attention of many. But this year, when a suit was filed against the Pittsburgh-based company alleging that some of the 2009 layoffs were made due to age discrimination, eyebrows again went up among readers. The plaintiffs in the suit, who are all between the ages of 52 and 58, were let go at the end of March 2009 and allege that PGW "adopt[ed] and employ[ed] methods for evaluating, ranking and selecting employees for termination in its [reductions-in-force], which methods were highly subjective, unreliable, invalid, and served as mere pretext, resulting in the termination of disproportionately high numbers of older workers who were never informed of the clandestine criteria used to select them for termination." PGW has denied the claims and has filed a counterclaim, and, in November, a related suit was filed by a different employee making similar allegations.

10. Industry Legend Joe Kellman Passes Away:
While there may be varying opinions on Joe Kellman and how he impacted the industry, few will deny that he was a legend in his time.

So it is no surprise that the sad news of his death earlier this year, at the age of 90 (he actually passed away on his 90th birthday), garnered much interest. At the time of Kellman’s death, AGRR was in the midst of preparations for a milestone of its own—its tenth-anniverary issue. The issue includes a look at many of the industry’s “Movers and Shakers”, including Kellman himself.

Please stay tuned to glassBYTEs.com in 2011 for more on some of these and others. Happy New Year!

What was your favorite story of 2010? What surprised you most this year? And what do you expect to happen in 2011? Please e-mail your thoughts to pstacey@glass.com.

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