In Stassi v. Commissioner,1 the United States Tax Court found that a settlement was not excludable from income as a personal physical injury because the taxpayer failed to demonstrate that her shingles was caused by her employer’s workplace.
Verdicts & Settlements
Plaintiffs Megan Meadowcroft and Amanda Brown, two winery employees, alleged that they had been harassed on numerous occasions by their supervisor, General Manager Pinero. Specifically, Brown alleged that Pinero attempted to flirt with her, and physically made contact with her. Meadowcroft alleged that Pinero made sexually explicit gestures, sexually explicit comments, put his hands on her waist and under her buttocks as she was serving customers, and on at least one occasion told her that she could be a manager if she would have sex with him. Along with a claim of harassment, they filed claims of retaliation, failure to prevent harassment/retaliation, and negligent supervision, retention, and hiring.
A class of flight attendants in a case involving alleged violations of California’s wage and hour laws was awarded $77 million in damages. In so doing, the judge rejected the airline’s challenges to the plaintiff’s damages model and reduced the damages requested by the workers by only $8 million. Bernstein et al. v. Virgin America Inc., No. 3:15-cv-02277 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 16, 2019).
Following a five-day trial, and nine hours of deliberation, a federal jury in Pennsylvania has awarded more than $6 million to a former Teva Pharmaceuticals employee. Middlebrooks v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., No. 2:17-cv-00412 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 19, 2018). The employee claimed that the company discriminated against him on the basis of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and on the basis of his national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and retaliated against him for lodging internal complaints.
A federal jury concluded that the former Superintendent of the East Greenbush Central School District failed meet her burden of proving she was terminated based on her gender and pregnancy status. Accordingly, the District was not liable for the more than $4 million in damages sought.
A federal jury recently awarded a female scientist $3M for her gender discrimination claims against PPG Industries, Inc., headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Half of the award was for emotional distress damages.
A jury recently returned a $310,500 verdict in favor of a former University of South Florida employee on her retaliation claim against the University. DeBose v. USF Board of Trustees, et al, No. 8:15-cv-02787 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 26, 2018). The former employee, Angela DeBose, claimed she was retaliated against because she had filed internal race bias complaints with the University and a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge of discrimination.
A federal jury has awarded a female professor lost earnings and punitive damages on two counts of employment retaliation, despite rejecting her claim of sex discrimination in a university’s distribution of coveted teaching assignments. Baugh v. Robert Morris University, No. 2016-cv-430 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 11, 2018).
A company’s potential monetary liability for workplace discrimination can be crippling. A jury in the U.S. District for the Northern District of Illinois had awarded a male grocery store butcher $2.4 million in compensatory and punitive damages on his claim of sexual harassment against a small grocery store located in the south side of Chicago. The lower court ultimately reduced the award to $477,500, because of Title VII’s statutory damage caps and the excessiveness of the award. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has affirmed the award. Smith v. Rosebud Farm, Inc., No. 17-2626, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 21481 (7th Cir. Aug. 2, 2018).
A federal judge in New York has ruled that a plaintiff could recover only a small portion of the $2.5 million a jury awarded him, granting the defendant’s request for the reduction. Saber v. New York State Department of Financial Services, No. 1:15-cv-05944 (S.D. N.Y. July 20, 2018). Plaintiff Nasser Saber, who is Muslim, had filed an eight-count complaint alleging that the employer, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), discriminated against him based on his religion and national origin, and otherwise retaliated against him in violation of Title VII, Sections 1981 and 1983, and New York Executive Law Section 296.
A Fresno, California jury has awarded nearly $8 million to former Chipotle employee Jeanette Ortiz on her claim of wrongful discharge.
A jury in the Northern District of Georgia recently entered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in a sexual harassment case, yet awarded her no damages.
A long-time New Jersey police department employee applies for a promotion to captain. On the promotional exam, he scores higher than any other applicant. He isn’t promoted. His consolation prize, however, is a jury verdict of more than $1.2 million in state court last month.
Pay bias litigation made the news recently when a North Carolina federal judge approved a $45 million settlement of class action claims brought by former and current female managers who alleged that Family Dollar paid them less than it paid comparable male managers. Ending a case that began over a decade ago, the deal required that Family Dollar would not only make the large settlement payment but also review its manager compensation framework with labor experts. Alleging that Family Dollar’s corporate policies and high-level management decisions were discriminatory, the class plaintiffs brought claims under the Equal Pay Act in addition to making claims for disparate impact and treatment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This issue is not going away; other recent press accounts have noted that female doctors earned significantly less than their male peers do (and that the gap was most pronounced in Charleston, South Carolina!).
In a case alleging sexual harassment by a researcher against a research assistant, the trial court ordered more than 300k in attorneys’ fees after the jury awarded a mere $1 in damages to the plaintiff. Jenkins v. The University of Minnesota et al., No. 13-CV-1548 (D. Minn. Oct. 13, 2017). The court awarded attorneys’ fees because it found that nonmonetary considerations significantly affected the case.