Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Host of MDV's for the Merry Month of May

While I have been busy the first two weeks of May (and the end of April) in disposing of cases I had set for trial, as well as traveling around the beautiful Southeast (Charleston - Savannah - Atlanta), juries have been busy sending messages all across the country:

  • Ex-Liberty Mutual agent gets $1.3m in disability bias suit. Boston federal court jury after two weeks of deliberation over the termination of a 37 year employee who had bipolar disorder who alleged he was terminated because of his disability.
  • Troy teacher gets $2.4M for refusing to pat backs. Michigan teacher claimed that her Chinese heritage was a factor in her termination. Among the claims and the source of the headline, her principal "once suggested that Auvenshine should physically pat students on the back for doing good work. Auvenshine said she did not feel comfortable doing so because of her cultural background, and [the principal] allegedly indicated that she should modify her behavior to better fit in. "
  • Torrance Machine Operator Wins $9 Million Whistleblower Trial, reported at the SoCal Law Blog, reports on a jury verdict in downtown Los Angeles arising out of a safety complaint by a 24 year employee.
  • Bass Pro ordered to pay $2.8 million for firing man. A St. Charles, Missouri jury returned this verdict for a whistleblower who had called the police to see if his boss breaking into an apparently abandoned car to see who owned it was a crime. He was terminated 5 days later. This case was cited in an apparently unsuccessful effort to change Missouri whistleblower law to require that an employer actually violate the law in order to support a whistleblower claim. See Whistle-blower law is under attack in Missouri from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • $1.75 million awarded in racial harassment suit. This racial harassment case was only a 2 day trial and less than one day of deliberation for a Denver federal court jury. According to plaintiff's attorney, a co-worker was alleged to have made statements "that whites are superior to blacks, that blacks do not know anything, ma[de] a sexually suggestive comment and calling [plaintiff] terms that are too offensive to be published."
  • Spanked US woman gets $1.7 million in lawsuit. Yes, finally a California case, when a jury in Fresno awarded this amount where: "The most compelling evidence is that they made a middle-aged woman go in front of mostly male co-workers between the ages of 18 and 24, bend over, put her hands on the wall and spanked her with a metal sign." Obviously, given the rather intriguing facts this one has gotten a fair amount of blogosphere treatment for Janet Orlando. George Lenard at the always good, George's Employment Law Blawg, has everyone figured out with his post, Still Curious About That Employee-Spanking Case? Of Course You Are!. And if that's not enough press, don't panic, Spanked Employee to Take Story on TV Tour, including of course the required visit with Oprah. Update: The spanking case settled for $1.4 million, but the company or based on the story from the North County Gazette, Spanked Employee Sues To Collect Settlement Deal , its insurance company hasn't paid the agreed amount. So, litigation round two, to collect on the settlement. Second Update: While it is unclear what happened over the disputed settlement, an appeals court has delivered another blow to the spankee, reversing the verdict and sending it back for a trial. Unfortunately for plaintiff, the company has gone into bankruptcy and the insurance appears to have been exhausted. See my update here.

The million dollar verdict seems to be alive and well.


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