Posted On: May 26, 2009

Damages In A Sexual Harassment Case

Although the title suggests damages in a sexual harassment case, these damages are also available in most discrimination cases.
1. Economic Damages--consist of back and front pay plus incidentals. Included in this calculation are benefits. Back pay is the amount of money equal to wages an employee would have earned, including all benefits from the date of discharge through the date of final judgment. Front pay is an amount of money equal to wages and benefits the employee will lose in the future because of a lower paying job or no job at all. Incidentals may be relocation costs, education costs for retraining and costs for tools if required at a new position.

2. Emotional Distress Damages--There is new specific formula for this calculation and there are many factors to consider including, the credibility of the employee, length of employment, believeability of witnesses, prior or pre-existing similar injuries, nature and extent of counseling or other medical treatment, and strength of the underlying case.

3. Punitive Damages--Under Title VII and ADA violations punitive damages may be awarded. In order to recover the employee must prove the employer engaged in a discriminatory practice or discriminatory practices with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of the employee, but also that liability for the punitive damages should be imputed to the employer.

4. Attorneys' Fees--All federal anti discrimination statutes and those in Illinois provide for the recovery of attorney fees by the prevailing party. Discretion as to the amount is up to the Judge.

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Posted On: May 25, 2009

EEOC Files Sexual Harassment Cases Against CRST Van Expedited

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") filed suit against CRST Van Expedited in September 2007 on behalf of 265 former employees, alleging it failed to protect women driving on two-driver teams from unwelcome sexual conduct and harassment from male drivers and trainers. Chief Judge Linda Reade last week dismissed the EEOC's claim that CRST had a "pattern or practice" of tolerating sexual harassment. However Judge Reade acknowledged 146 female drivers "variously suffered physical, mental and/or emotional abuse at the hands of their male co-drivers and lead drivers." Additionally the Judge said there was evidence of male drivers crawling into women's bunks uninvited, ordering women off trucks and tossing their belongings out of cabs, and of male drivers punching, kicking, grabbing, fondling and raping female drivers.

According to the Judge, CRST provided evidence that it has a policy against sexual harassment, has multiple channels for reporting sexual harassment, and has acted on sexual harassment claims. CRST dismissed at least one driver for sexual harassment and in dozens of cases, it made sure some males no longer were teamed with female drivers.

Posted On: May 22, 2009

Former Dean Awarded $5 Million in Sexual Harassment Case

A federal jury awarded former dean of students Cheryl Farb $5 million after finding that she was fired in May 2006 in retaliation for filing a formal complaint against the then principal, James Brown. Farb claimed Brown used sexist language in front of female staff and commented on students' bodies. Additionally a witness testified that Brown used a sexist slur and threatened to have Farb fired when he was told she had filed the complaint alleging sexual harassment.

The jury found the Baldwin Board of Education liable for intentionally inflicting emotional distress on Cheryl Farb, the middle school's former dean of students, who had claimed she was a victim of sexual harassment and gender and racial discrimination. The Baldwin Board of Education, which, after an internal investigation, determined that Farb's claims were unsubstantiated, was found guilty of retaliation, for terminating her.

"Farb said she was appalled that Brown is still employed by the district."

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Posted On: May 21, 2009

Employer Mediation Agreements May Be Grounds For Additional Relief

I recently came across a sexual harassment case involving a multi-international company who does business in Illinois. The Illinois employee was required to sign various documents as part of the employment process, including a document whereby the employee was giving up her rights to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and instead agreeing to go through mediation with some third party. Of course the employee did not have an opportunity to negotiate this issue and in fact it was a "take it" or "leave it" approach by the company. Either sign all the documents in front of you or work somewhere else.

I believe this policy is unconstitutional, in clear violation of both state and federal law and may afford employees of this company additional causes of action against the corporation including fraud, violation of 740 ILCS 23 the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003, and violation of the Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 among others.

For example in Illinois the five elements of fraud are:

1. A material misrepresentation of a presently exisiting or past fact;
2. Knowledge by the defendant of its falsity or a reckless disregard as to whether it is true or false;
3. Intention that the other person rely on the statement;
4. Justifiable or reasonable reliance thereon by the other person; and
5. Resulting damage.

Clearly, subjecting an employee to sign away his/her rights is a misrepresentation and against the public policy of Illinois. If you have been forced to sign such an agreement you may have a remedy against your employer.

Posted On: May 20, 2009

Illinois Supreme Court Reverses On Human Rights Act Case

The Illinois Supreme Court in Blount v. Stroud, 2009 WL 153862 ( Ill Sup Ct. 2009), rules the Illinois Human Rights Act does not stop a party from filing an employment or civil rights action in state court. The Court held that the Department of Human Rights and the Illinois Human Rights Commission only administer the Illinois Human Rights Act not federal law. The case involved Jerri Blout who filed a multi-count complaint in Cook County alleging retaliation under 42 USC Section 1981 and a common law claim of retaliation. The gist of her claim was that her employer wanted her to perjure herself in a discrimination case they were involved in and when she would not, she was fired. A jury awarded her $3 million plu $1 million in attorney fees and costs.

This case is good for plaintiffs as it gives one more arrow in their quiver against employers who discriminate against them and subject them to retaliation and other forms of discrimination.

Blount's lead attorney Robin Potter said " this case is monumental, particularly given the 2007 amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act that now permits those claims to be adjudicated in state court."
Posted On: May 19, 2009

California School Settles Sexual Orientation Discrimination Claims By Lesbian Student for $25,000

A lesbian student's complaint that teachers harassed her over her sexual orientation has led to a California school agreeing to pay the student $25,000 and revamp the schools anti-discrimination policies. The student, Rochelle Hamilton, now 16, was a sophomore at Jesse Bethel High School in the fall of 2007, when teachers allegedly verbally harassed her and forced her to attend a counseling session for gay students. Gill said the counselor tried to discourage Hamilton and other students in the session from being gay. Hamilton's standard dress was stereotypically male, with baggy jeans. This is a form of school sexual harassment.

The alleged harassment included a staff member telling Hamilton she was "ungodly" and "going to hell" as she embraced her then-girlfriend. The alleged comments transformed the "social butterfly" into a teenager on the verge of suicide, according Hamilton's mother. Hamilton, who came out as a lesbian when she was 13, said Monday she became depressed because of daily negative comments from teachers and staff about her sexual orientation and her appearance. Hamilton complained to school officials but nothing was done to stop the harassment. Hamilton's grades suffered and her social life suffered as a result of the harassment.

According to a letter dated Jan. 17, 2008, from the ACLU to Bull, staff members made comments to the girl such as, "Remember, you're a girl, not a boy," and, "You can get HIV/AIDS from being gay and messing with females."

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Posted On: May 18, 2009

Nurse Awarded $15 Million in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Flushings Hospital nurse Janet Bianco, 55, says Dr. Matthew Miller began groping and propositioning her soon after she started working at the hospital in 1993. She alleges the 61-year-old physician, who is married, was "very bold, aggressive, he didn't even try to hide it. Patient rooms, hallways, it didn't matter. Wherever he was, it occurred. And I wasn't the only one," referring to Dr. Millers conduct which resulted in Bianco filing a charge of sexual harassment against him and the hospital.

Bianco says she complained to supervisors, but no action was taken, despite the fact that Dr. Miller was previously sanctioned by New York State for having a prolonged sexual relationship with an alcoholic patient for whom he was prescribing anti-anxiety drugs. Bianco says that during one incident, Dr. Miller tried to force his tongue down her throat as the hospital's medical director, Dr. Peter Barra, looked on. A jury awarded Bianco $15 million, ordering the hospital and Miller split the cost.

Then, in 2001, Miller "chased Bianco through the halls," finally cornering her in a room with two heavily sedated patients, where he "aggressively groped her below the waist."

Posted On: May 16, 2009

Illinois House Bill 3794 Will Affect Sexual Harassment Cases

Illinois House Bill ("HB") 3794 would add a new section to the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure--8-2801. The passage of this bill will be good news for sexual harassment plaintiffs and their attorney's. The new statutue would prohibit the admission of any evidence to prove an alleged victim (plaintiff) engaged in other sexual behavior or to prove a victim's sexual predisposition in civil cases.

There are two exceptions--first the evidence of specific instances of sexual behavior by the plaintiff would only be admissible for the purpose of proving the plaintiff consented to the alleged sexual harassment. Second, any evidence of specific instances of sexual behavior by the plaintiff, offered to prove that a person other than the accused was the source of physical evidence would be admissible. Physical evidence could be the source of the injury, or semen as examples.

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Posted On: May 15, 2009

Illinois Rescue Squad Sued for Retaliation and Discrimination

Former paramedic Dawn Reid is suing the district, including Chief Barry Beckwith, claiming retaliation and discrimination. She alleges that male employees were treated more favorably than female employees continually throughout 2007 and 2008. The lawsuit also alleges that female employees were referred to as “broads” or F*** broads,” among other allegations.

Reid was suspended and fired from her job in January 2008 without any formal reason, which is the basis for the retaliation claim. Beckwith was suspended with pay for six days in March, pending an investigation by the Rescue Squad District’s board of trustees.

Former Deputy Chief Todd Jones also is suing the district for allegedly being demoted after he complained about the discrimination in early 2008. According to the lawsuit, a demotion to the position of emergency medical technician was ordered after Beckwith had found out that Jones consulted with a lawyer about filing a claim for retaliation.


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Posted On: May 13, 2009

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed Against Yellow Pages

A Valley Yellow Pages employee, Lori Gardner, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her supervisor David Golla, alleging that he repeatedly asked her to take photos of her breasts in order to leave work early and talked about what it would be like to have sex with other employees. The lawsuit against employee David Golla and AGI Publishing Inc., which publishes Valley Yellow Pages, alleges sexual harassment, discrimination in employment and retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract.

According to papers filed in the lawsuit, Gardner, an account executive alleges Golla, her supervisor, created a hostile working environment by repeatedly commenting about her breasts throughout the day for months. Gardner also alleges that Golla tried to kiss her and reached into her blouse and grabbed her breast.

“He would regularly comment on the bodies of women, making statements like ‘Look at the udders on that one’ or ‘Look at those, nice …’ ” according to the lawsuit.

Gardner also alleges that when she resisted Golla’s advances, he threatened to take her job away, threw materials on the desk and spoke harshly to her. Gardner repeatedly reported the sexual harassment but nothing of substance was done to stop it according to the lawsuit.

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Posted On: May 12, 2009

Hispanic Workers Awarded $4.3 Millinion in Discrimination Case

A case involving 149 Hispanic warehouse workes has been settled. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and B & H Foto and Electronics Corp. ("B & H") agreed to resolve a national origin discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of 149 Hispanic warehouse workers at one of the largest retail sellers of photographic, computer and electronic equipment in New York. B&H will pay $4.3 million to settle the case.

The EEOC's lawsuit alleged that B & H paid Hispanic workers in its warehouses in Manhattan and Brooklyn less than non-Hispanic workers and failed to promote them or provide health benefits because of their national origin. Along with the settlement, the parties agreed to injunctive relief requiring B & H to equalize the wages of Hispanic employees to their non-Hispanic coworkers, conduct employer training, adopt an anti-discrimination policy, post EEOC notices, report to the EEOC, and to be monitored by the EEOC for the next five years.

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Posted On: May 11, 2009

Hyundai Employee Awarded $5.79 Million in Sexual Harassment Case

Tammy Edwards and employee at Hyundai was awarded $5.79 million last week in her sexual harassment lawsuit. According to the complaint, a manager, made lewd comments and gestures, propositioned her, and even pressed his body against her. These harassing activities lasted for five months. Ms. Edwards was told she should get used to it and act like it didn't bother her. Eventually, in July 2006, Ed­wards reported the behavior to Hyundai's human resources de­partment, and a week later she was transferred from her job as a computer operator to a job on the assembly line- a position she couldn't physically perform--which is retaliation.

Ms. Edwards decided not to just take it and instead filed her federal lawsuit against the company. Officials at the plant never attempted to correct the situa­tion according to the lawsuit.

Alicia Haynes, who repre­sented Edwards, said the verdict shows that companies need to have safeguards against harass­ment and to make sure they are followed.

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Posted On: May 9, 2009

Jury Rejects Sexual Harassment Claim By Illinois Worker

A federal jury in Chicago rejected a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Carlos Estes against Teyonda Wertz, chief of staff of the state Human Services Department. The Illinois Department of Human Services was also named in the lawsuit. Attorneys portrayed Estes as a hero, a rare man with the guts to claim his female boss sexually harassed him. Estes reported the sexual harassment and was fired three weeks later. He calls that retaliation. But the state blamed it on repeated misuse of a government car.

"Sexual harassment does happen to men and it's important for men to speak out, no matter how difficult it is," said attorney Dana Kurtz.

Bill Anderson, attorney for the Illinois Department of Human Services, said, "This case is about a woman who had a scandalous and scurrilous accusation made against her and had to live with it for five years." Estes charged that Wertz insisted the two share a room at a Springfield hotel during a 2003 business trip, that Wertz changed into silk pajamas and then demanded sex from Estes. He refused. However, Estes admits he stayed in the room, and slept on the sofa. The jury did not buy Estes argument and rejected his claims.

Posted On: May 8, 2009

Ex-Long Island Teacher Awarded $5M In Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

A former school official of the Long Island school district, Cheryl Farb was awarded $5 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit. Farb was fired in 2004 after complaining that a middle school principal, Brown, used sexist and derogatory language toward her The former dean of students, Farb was choked up with emotion, recalling being fired from her job at the Baldwin Middle School.

"You need to stand up for what you believe in and what's right," Farb said.

Farb sued the principal and Baldwin School District in federal court, and a jury ruled Thursday that she was the victim of retaliation and fired because she lodged complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment. Brown, who remains on the job, was ordered to pay $1 million; the school district will pay the remaining $4 million.

"It only took this jury one hour and 20 minutes to come back with an award of $5 million," Farb's attorney, Rick Ostrove, said.

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Posted On: May 6, 2009

Social Services Supervisor targeted In Sexual Harassment Case Gets $45,000

A social work supervisor, Cesar Bedroni who sued the county for wrongful termination in a sexual harassment case has settled his lawsuit for $45,000 and the right to resign rather than be fired. The Board of Supervisors first fired Bedroni on Feb. 18, 2005, after nine allegations of sexual harassment against female co-workers from 2003.

County Administrative Officer David Edge said at the time that the county must send a message to its employees that it would not tolerate sexual harassment. Bedroni appealed his firing to the Civil Service Commission. Both sides believe the settlement is fair and allows everyone to move forward.

Posted On: May 3, 2009

Two Female University Coaches Settles Gender Discrimination Case For $3.4 Million

Two female head coaches sued the Florida Gulf Coast University alleging gender discrimination and Title IX retaliation. Flood was the head of the University women's volleyball team and Vaughn was the head of the University golf team. Both women were paid less than their male counterparts, had sub-par offices and were not given office equipment that other less qualified male coaches were given. Both were also given year-to-year contracts while their male counterparts were given multi-year contracts.

Both women complained to the interim athletic director who rebuffed them and allegedly said

"if you don't like it here, you can get the hell out."
The University President was made aware of the situation and nothing changed. The following month Flood was given a performance review appraisal of below expectation and placed on probation. Flood was next put on administrative leave and the university began to conduct several investigations without telling Flood of the investigations. While this was taking place, Flood was named "Coach of the Year" by the school's volleyball conference. Several months later, Flood was terminated by the University.

Vaughn was rated as "marginally meets expectations" even though the evaluator had never attended one of her practices, team meetings, or tournaments.

The parties settled before trial for a total of $3.4 million, with Flood getting $2.97 million and Vaughn getting $435,000.

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Posted On: May 2, 2009

Activist Settles Sexual Harassment Case For $130,000

The Los Angeles City Council today approved a $130,000 settlement in a sexual harassment complaint by Mary Cummins-Cobb against departing Animal Services Director Ed Boks. The lawsuit, filed by animal activist Mary Cummins-Cobb alleged Boks engaged in "inappropriate and unprofessional conduct" including trying to hug and kiss her, calling her frequently and using vulgar comments with her. Boks resigned last month in the face of pressure from officials, with complaints over his decision-making and operation of the department.

Cummins-Cobb had been working with Boks to develop the Animal Services Web site, but she had to leave because of the way she was being treated. After leaving the post, Cummins-Cobb alleged in her lawsuit that she lost other jobs because of Boks. Cummins-Cobb filed a lawsuit as a result of being fired alleging sexual harassment, retaliation and the creation of a hostile work environment.

Cummins-Cobb also alleged that Boks would come to her residence drunk late at night and ask her out for a date.

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Posted On: May 1, 2009

N.Y. court awards Hillside woman $1.86M in sexual harassment lawsuit

Jance Worthen-Caldwell was awarded $1.86 million in a civil sexual harassment lawsuit, after a jury in Brooklyn decided she was ridiculed and sexually abused by her employer at a home health care agency. Steven Ostrovsky was ordered to pay Caldwell $1.86 million for past and future pain and suffering. The award for future pain and suffering will be paid regardless of whether or not Worthen-Caldwell goes back to work at that agency.

Caldwell had asked for damages totaling $400 million, plus legal costs because Ostrovsky made sexually explicit comments and demanded sexual favors from her "as a term of employment." The jury found that Ostrovsky's behavior was "more than just a trivial slight or minor inconvenience" and that he had made unwanted sexual advances or demands toward Worthen-Caldwell that she rejected.

"I tried to hold onto my job because I don't have a college degree," she said. "But it got to the point where I could not continue to have this man touch me, or rub himself up against me any time he wanted to."