In a recent bench trial before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, an employment plaintiff prevailed on a retaliation claim under Title VII and was awarded $1.2 million by the judge. A copy of the final judgment is here. More after the break.
The final Opinion and Order in the case makes for interesting reading. It is a lengthy summary of the facts in a hotly contested sexual harassment and retaliation trial. In the end, the court found in favor of the defendant on the hostile work environment claim. The court concluded, however, that the defendant had retaliated against the plaintiff when it fired her shortly after making a retaliation complaint to the company.
The key discussion of the retaliation verdict can be found starting at page 46 of the Opinion and Order. The court discusses there its perception of the failures of human resources in failing to investigate the complaint and making the decision to terminate the plaintiff.
Although the case is still subject to post-trial motions and appeal, the current outcome was costly to the defendant employer. The court awarded $377,734 in back pay; $804,791 in front pay; and $50,000 in compensatory damages. The plaintiff employee’s attorneys have filed a request with the court for an award of $1,119,144 in attorneys’ fees and $140,000 in costs (a total of $1,258,327). The defendant employer was represented by two of the largest defense firms in the United States, so it would be reasonable to assume a similar outlay of attorneys’ fees by the employer defending the case.
All of this goes to show that an ounce of prevention and training may be worth avoiding a pound of cure!