Posts Tagged ‘jury award’

Jury Awards $20M to Gay Sergeant in Bias Suit; Superior Told Him to “Tone Down” His Sexuality

A gay cop on the beat can do the job just as well as a straight cop–and he needn’t be shy about his gayness.

Justice has been served for a gay police sergeant who was told “to tone down his sexuality” and then was transferred to another precinct after he sued the police department for discrimination.

A jury in St. Louis last Friday awarded Sgt. Keith Wildhaber nearly $20 million in a discrimination case involving claims that the department failed to promote him based on sex stereotyping and retaliated against him for filing a lawsuit.

The widow of a former police officer testified that police Capt. Guy Means had called Sergeant Wildhaber “fruity” at an event in 2015, and that he would never be promoted because he was “way too out there with his gayness and he needed to tone it down if he wanted a white shirt

Wildhaber, age 47, had more than 15 years of experience on the force, yet over the course of five and a half years, he was turned down for 23 promotions, his  lawsuit claimed. And a month after filing a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, he was transferred to another precinct around 27 miles from his home, where he was assigned to work an overnight shift, according to court documents. He then filed a second charge of retaliation.

After three hours of deliberations, the jury awarded Sergeant Wildhaber $1.9 million in actual damages and $10 million in punitive damages on the discrimination allegation, and $999,000 in actual damages and $7 million in punitive damages for the retaliation allegations.

$550K Jury Award to Pregnant Employee Fired After Leaving Her Job for Prenatal Appointment

A Washington, D.C. restaurant’s firing of a pregnant employee who left work early to go to a prenatal doctor’s appointment left a bad taste in the jury’s mouth.

Yesterday’s $550,000 award against Chipotle Mexican Grill should send a strong message to other employers to abide by the law when it comes to the rights of pregnant employees.

The incident over the prenatal appointment was just the straw that broke the camel’s back in this case. The jury also heard testimony that the employee’s supervisor began restricting access to drinking water and forbidding routine breaks after the employee, Doris Garcia Hernandez, who worked at the Chipotle on M Street N.W., informed him that she was pregnant in November 2011.

She was fired thre months after, leaving leaving work early to a pre-natal doctor’s appointment.

According to Hernandez, the supervisor also harassed her by requiring her to tell each employee where she was going and then wait for permission to leave her post–with no such rules in place for nonpregnant employees. He also ignored her request days in advance for early leave to to go her appointments.

When he fired her, he did so in front of other employee’s in the store lobby. Prior to her pregnancy, Hernandez had received positive performance reviews for her work at the store.

Hernandez’s troubles had one salutary effect for other pregnant employees: It spurred the D.C. Council to pass the Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires employers to provide pregnant employees with basic accommodations, such as access to drinking water and more frequent bathroom breaks.

“No woman should be forced to choose between a prenatal appointment and her job,” said Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee.



Bartender Awarded $687K for Illegal Firing; Evidence Owner Favored Hiring Whites Only

Want to start a national conversation on race in the workplace? Then maybe the place to begin is with the Redline bar in Washington, D.C.

That’s where, according to a federal jury, the owner illegal discriminated against a former employee because she is African American, supposedly refusing to shake her hand or speak with her and firing her within an hour of her hiring.

For that violation of the law, the jury awarded Briggitta Hardin $687,000 under federal and D.C. anti-discrimination laws.

The jury’s award broke down to $175,000 in compensatory damages, $510,000 in punitive damages under Title VII, and $2,000 in punitive damages under the District’s Human Rights Act.

But this apparently wasn’t just an isolated incident at this particular workplace.

Several white ex-employees testified during trial about the absence of black bartenders and the owner’s racially charged hiring preferences. “Witnesses testified at trial that he wanted to hire white blonde chicks or girls, as bartenders,” according to Hardin’s attorney.

The defense presented a rosier picture of race relations at the establishment, calling as witnesses two African American patrons and friends to testify about the demographics of Redline’s patrons and employees and the owner’s treatment of black and other minority customers.

But the evidence on the whole on which the jury found liability paints a disturbing picture of this particular workplace-and should trigger soul searching on race relations in the workplace.

$240K Jury Award in EEOC Lawsuit on Behalf of Muslim Drivers Who Wouldn’t Transport Alcohol

A trucking company’s discrimination against two of its Muslim drivers has cost it big time.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced today that a federal jury awarded the two drivers, fired from their jobs at Star Transport because they refused to transport alcohol because it violated their religious beliefs, $240,000.

Both told the employer that making them transport the alcohol would violate their religious beliefs under Islamic law.

The jury awarded Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale $20,000 each in compensatory damages and $100,000 each in punitive damages. The presiding federal judge awarded each approximately $1,500 in back pay.

EEOC filed the suit in 2013, as I reported at that time.

Not a Good Finish Line: Store Fined $30K for Sexually Harassing Female Workers

A jury in Tennessee has ordered the sports apparel company The Finish Line to pay $30,000 to remedy sexual harassment by one of its male supervisors against three female teenage employees, the EEOC reported earlier this month.

The  Finish Line is an Indianapolis-based company that sells athletic footwear,  apparel and accessories.

EEOC said the harassment, which it termed “severe,” occurred at The Finish Line, Inc.’s Cool Springs Galleria  store in Franklin, Tenn. The harassment was carried out by a 38-year-old general manager. The victims were 16-17 years old at the time, the EEOC said.

According to the suit, Finish Line subjected at least three female employees to unlawful sexual harassment.  The agency also alleged that Finish Line forced the female employees to quit as a result of the sexually abusive working  environment, and retaliated against one female employee by reducing her hours because she resisted the sexual harassment.

Read more.

Former “Price Is Right” Model Awarded $8.5 Million in Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit

The deeper the corporate pocket, the more painful the verdict in an employment discrimination lawsuit, as producers of a popular TV game show discovered last week.

A former model for the TV game show the “Price Is Right” has been awarded $8.5 million by a jury in Los Angeles in her pregnancy discrimination lawsuit.

The model, Brandi Cochran, alleged that the show’s producers–FremantleMedia North America and The Price is Right Productions–unlawfully denied her her old job back when she returned from maternity leave.

The producers defended their handling of her situation by saying that they were satisfied with the five models already on the show when Cochran tried to return.

The award is comprised of $7.7 million in punitive damages, and $777,000 compensatory damages.

The defendants said they will appeal.

Quarter Million Dollar Verdict Handed Down in Female Firefighter’s Harassment Case

Need further proof that sexual harassment can cost an employer plenty? Look no further than last week’s verdict against the Fairfax County and Rescue Department in suburban Northern Virginia. A jury ruled that the department was liable for sexual harassment of female firefighter Mary Bland, who put up with repeated harassment by her male supervisor.

The department reprimanded the supervisor and ordered him to stay away from Bland. But that proved ineffective.

Now, it is true that some workplaces are inhospitable to women. Police and fire departments for decades were male bastions. But that is changing, and employers need to get up to speed on their legal obligations to ensure a discrimination-free workplace.

Harassment can happen anywhere, so all employers need to be vigilant. They must have effective procedures in place for employees to report suspected instances of harassment, and have effective responses that put an end to such behavior.

Here are some recommendations on handling sexual harassment.