A Los Angeles jury has awarded $440 million in punitive damages to two men who alleged they were forced out of their jobs at Southern California Edison after complaining about repeated sexual and racial harassment.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the decision came after jurors awarded $24.6 million in compensatory damages to plaintiffs Alfredo Martinez and Justin Page, bringing the combined sexual harassment lawsuit verdict to over $464.6 million.
Unprecedented Jury Award for Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
Martinez alleged in the lawsuit that after 16 years at Edison, he had been pushed out of his supervisor job in April 2017 by constructive termination – a claim that accuses the employer of creating or permitting intolerable working conditions to force out a worker – after reporting sexual harassment and racist language.
During the trial, attorneys for the plaintiffs presented evidence that showed that the office in question had a fraternity-like culture in which racial and sexual harassment was widespread and common. The lawsuit alleged that Edison’s management did not take the harassment seriously.
The jury award was unusual because jurors awarded $440 million in punitive damages – way more than the $140 million that was suggested.
The $22.37 million in compensatory damages for Martinez is believed to be one of the largest of its kind for a Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) case in California’s history. The complaint also alleged that Martinez experienced retaliation after reporting the harassment, as did Page.
Laws Prohibit Harassment and Discrimination
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers are prohibited from making any employment decision against workers based on race, religion, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics.
Such decisions include hiring, firing, promotions, training opportunities, etc. Repeated discrimination or harassment creates a hostile work environment for employees, where they might find it difficult to function normally and be productive.
If you have been the target of discrimination or harassment at the workplace, you may be able to receive compensation for the damages and emotional distress you have suffered. Contact an experienced California employment lawyer for more information about pursuing your legal rights.