Just In Time For Christmas - FedEx MDV Verdict
by Michael Fox
If nothing else the story at the cnn.com website, FedEx ordered to pay $1.5M in employment case is a stark reminder that being in an employment law jury trial right before the holidays, is probably not a good time from an employer's perspective. This case had a somewhat unusual twist in that the employee who sued, Ted Maines, was allegedly reprimanded for trying to promote two veteran minority employees rather than a recent hire who was white and female. The jury awarded Maines $201,000 in back pay and $1.37 million in compensatory damages (mental anguish). The limited good news for FedEx, the jury considered but did not award punitive damages.
According to the EEOC's press release at its website, Maines was constructively terminated when a week after he complained about the treatment he viewed as discriminatory he was given the option of either taking a 5 grade demotion or a warning that he could be terminated for any future "mistake." When he said he could not accept either option, according to the EEOC:
Federal Express immediately issued a disciplinary warning letter containing a threat of termination as well as a verbal admonishment stating that the vice president wanted him to know that the very next mistake he makes would be his last as a Federal Express employee. Thereafter, Maines was subjected to intense scrutiny, including electronic monitoring. He believed that his phones were monitored and his work was subjected to a heightened level of review. As a result of his being targeted by Federal Express for retaliatory conduct, the terms and conditions of Maines' employment became so intolerable that he was forced to resign (constructive discharge).
A good reminder that lethal lawsuits can come in unanticipated packages.