Massachusetts juries made substantial awards in favor of plaintiffs who claimed to have been discriminated or retaliated against in 2018. The below four cases include significant punitive damages awards which illustrate the desire of juries to punish employers perceived to have acted wrongly. Salient facts in the below cases include a manager’s falsifying information, a general manager’s obscene remarks to female employees, an employer’s lack of anti-discrimination policies, and a hospital’s termination of a physician instead of accommodating his disability.
Retaliation – $28.2 million
The plaintiff, a nurse, alleged race discrimination and retaliation against her former employer, a Boston hospital. The jury found that the plaintiff was retaliated against after standing up for a black colleague who had been denied a promotion and prevented from taking another job by a hospital manager. The plaintiff’s manager was found to have retaliated against the plaintiff by falsifying incidents regarding patient care and refusing to allow the presence of a union representative during meetings between the manager and the plaintiff. The breakdown of the jury award was $2.75 million for emotional distress, $463,000 in lost wages, and $25 million in punitive damages. Toussaint v. Brigham & Women’s Hospital, et al., No. 14-2253 (Suffolk Super. Ct. May 23, 2018).
Sexual Harassment – $3 million
The plaintiff, a salesperson at a car dealership, claimed that she was subjected to sexual harassment that created an intimidating, hostile, and sexually offensive work environment. The general manager made crude and offensive comments regarding the physical appearance of female customers and made disparaging remarks directed toward female employees. In addition, the plaintiff worked over 50 hours per week but was not paid overtime nor was she paid commission like other male salespersons. The dealership had no anti-harassment or anti-discrimination policies or training in place. The jury award consisted of $15,710 in unpaid wages and $3 million in punitive damages. Roosa v. Central Auto Group, et al., No. 16-2369 (Suffolk Super. Ct. Aug. 24, 2018).
Sex Discrimination / Retaliation – $2.3 million
The plaintiff alleged sex discrimination and retaliation when she was transferred from her position as a police detective back to the police department’s patrol division. The plaintiff had more seniority than two of the four detectives who remained, all of whom were male. The plaintiff filed a charge of sex discrimination with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and was then reassigned to the detective unit. Once reassigned, she was treated differently than her male colleagues by being denied assignments that she should have received based on her seniority, excluded from training, and investigated by an outside officer. The jury award consisted of $1,352,000 in punitive damages and $676,000 in compensatory damages. Racow v. Delehanty, No. 2014-03200 (Suffolk Super. Ct. Feb. 26, 2018).
Disability Discrimination – $1.9 million
The plaintiff, a 73-year-old pediatric pulmonologist with cerebral palsy, alleged that he was terminated even though he was able to perform all of the essential functions of his position. The plaintiff also alleged that his employer failed to provide him with reasonable accommodations. The jury found that the plaintiff was discriminated against due to his disability and made an award which consisted of $1,146,812.38 in punitive damages, $575,241.83 for lost wages, and $197,528.25 in front pay. Duda v. Baystate Medical Practices, Inc., No. 15-679 (Hampden Super. Ct. June 18, 2018).