Decisions and Settlements
Since 2003 the Firm has represented numerous clients in sexual harassment, age, race, sex and disability discrimination cases, in federal and state courts, arbitration and mediation. The Firm has also represented plaintiffs in sexual orientation discrimination, same-sex sexual harassment cases, and class action suits. Mr. Friedman began practicing employment law in 1992 as a solo, before forming the Firm. Here is selection of some of the matters litigated to verdict or settlement.
Out-Of-Court Settlement of Sex and Race Discrimination Claims
$5 Million Settlement in Racial Harassment Case
Our previous $4 million racial harassment settlement was as reported by the Daily Press the largest in Virginia history. This confidential settlement for the same number of Plaintiffs exceeds the previous record by $1 million. We fought for our clients for many years to get this one.
$4 Million Settlement in Racial Harassment Case
$2,058,000 Settlement in Sexual Harassment Case
$4.5 Million Settlement in Sexual Harassment Case
Aviles v. BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair Inc. was a class action which involved allegations of sexual harassment, and discrimination in promotion and pay, against women shipyard workers. The settlement, agreed to by all parties, compensated women for the discrimination, required future promotions be based on job performance and improved BAE's response to sexual harassment complaints.
$3 Million Settlement in Racial Harassment Case
$2 Million Confidential Settlement in racial harassment case brought against a shipyard by multiple clients.
$1 Million Confidential Settlement in sexual harassment case. What made this unique was the client was "capped" under Title VII to $300,000 in emotional distress and punitive damages combined. Title VII does not cap lost wages and we were able to demonstrate that our client was so affected by the sexual harassment she could not work again in her field for the rest of her life, by using her treatment records and a forensic psychiatrist. Her lost wages were therefore in seven figures.
$910,000 Sexual Harassment Verdict
Ward v. Autozone. Friedman & Houlding Partner Rebecca Houlding tried this challenging case in Newbern, NC. Plaintiff, a 30-year Sherriff’s Deputy and Firearms instructor alleged he was sexually harassed by a young female coworker for several months. When repeated complaints to management were ignored Mr. Ward recorded conversations with witnesses including management who supported him. Autozone attempted to paint Plaintiff as a gold digger and a liar, although their own employees were on tape supporting him. This backfired spectacularly. The verdict included $660,000 in punitive damages, and a finding that Autozone intentionally inflicted severe emotional distress on the plaintiff.
This was a sex and race discrimination matter that was settled before suit (the parties' names are non-public). The settlement amount was slightly in excess of $1 million. The client did not have a strong case at the outset. She had run several of its subsidiary companies for a number of years, was an Executive Vice President, and had a good track record, however, the white male chosen for the position had roughly equal experience and was well thought of as well.
Our initial contact at the company was with the General Counsel. We were able to take advantage of pre-filing correspondence, in which he admitted key facts; e.g., that our client was a good performer. Consequently,we were able to drive the initial offer, which was in the low six figures, to over $1 million, by pointing out that he had conceded certain defenses.
Joel "Doe" v. Big-Six Accounting Firm
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Case
This was a same sex quid pro quo harassment matter. We settled it pre-filing for $300,000. The client alleged that the chairman of a Big-Six accounting firm, who was then running for reelection, had sexually molested him. There was no evidence other that our client's recollection.
Settlement of a Sexual Harassment Claim Against Bronx, NY Employer: $500,000
This case featured truly horrific facts. During her deposition the plaintiff gave a graphic description of how the harassment had degraded her and destroyed her confidence. The settlement amount was in the $400,000 range.
The fact that our client had saved her harasser’s love letters, and the fact that this case was brought in the Bronx, NY convinced the employer’s employment practices insurance carrier to approach us immediately after suit was filed to request that we consider settlement.
Settlement of Second Sexual Harassment Suit Against Same Bronx Employer: approximately $900,000
This employer did not have to pay out of its own pocket in the first suit, the insurance company paid. As a result, it failed to take its duty to prevent sexual harassment seriously, and history repeated itself.
Jackson et al v. Halliburton and Kellogg Brown and Root Arbitration
We acted as counsel to Mr. Jackson, a decorated Marine. After he was honorably discharged, he worked for Halliburton sub KBR in Hungary and the Balkans supporting our troops. Halliburton required, as a condition of employment, that their employees waive their right to trial by jury of their civil rights claims, and sign an "agreement" to arbitrate their civil rights claims. In the JACKSON DECISION the arbitrator found that Halliburton and KBR had discriminated against Mr. Jackson based on his race.
In re Rio Mar Restaurant 98/115964
Trial before the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR). The facts involved non-consensual digital penetration, one other violent sexual assault, and other incidents that were in the nature of a hostile work environment harassment, perpetrated by the individual owner of two restaurants. The Judge awarded $500,000 for emotional pain and suffering plus approximately $80,000 for economic loss. The Commissioner affirmed.
The award for pain and suffering is the highest affirmed by the Commissioner of the NYSDHR. In his decision the Commissioner found that the defendant's credibility had been destroyed on cross-examination, which warranted the trier of fact believing the complaining witness's testimony on the two sexual assaults, in the absence of a third-party witnesses. The General Counsel of the NYSDHR stated that the transcript of the trial would be used as a "road map" for the use of psychologists as expert witnesses.
The defendants appealed to the First Department, which reduced the pain and suffering award to $125,000 without opinion.
Appeal from the decision of the NYS Division of Human Rights after trial, awarding plaintiff $500,000 for emotional distress, and $65,850 in back pay. The appellate court affirmed the Division's decision in favor of plaintiff, including damages for the period she was unable to work, due to the psychiatric injury inflicted on plaintiff, and the addition of her harasser as a party. However, it reduced to $125,000 the award for emotional distress, with only the following explanation: "the award of $ 500,000 in compensatory damages was excessive and we reduce said award to $125,000."
Plaintiff had secretly recorded a conversation with a witness. Defendant demanded that she produce all recordings. Plaintiff did not want to produce the recording until she had first deposed the witness with whom she had the conversation, to prevent him from tailoring his testimony to the recording. We moved for a protective order allowing plaintiff to withhold production until after the witnesses was deposed. The Court came up with the creative solution, which met plaintiff's objectives, of ordering that the recordings be places in a safety deposit box, where plaintiff and defendant's counsel had the two keys required for access, which insured that neither side would have an advantage, until after the deposition.
Sexual harassment of a high school student by a teacher. The Court grants plaintiff's motion requiring disclosure of the names of other victims, and information about similar incidents, in the year before plaintiff started at the HS. The Court denied plaintiff's motion to depose the attorney who advised the school to discipline rather than fire the harasser.
Sexual harassment of a high school student by a teacher. The Court granted her motion to force the school to disclose the name of another sexual harassment victim, and to provide details about another incident.
In this decision after an evidentiary hearing, arbitrator Kathleen Roberts held that military contractor Kellogg Brown & Root had illegally discriminated against Robert Jackson. The decision maker in the hiring process, who had claimed Jackson did worse on an exam than the white applicant KBR hired, had to admit the evidence did not support his claim. That, and evidence that the decision maker had used a racial slur, was enough to convince the arbitrator that KBR had discriminated on the basis of Jackson's race. See pages 23-26.
Plaintiffs are permitted to bring their claims together, in a single action, if they arise from the same basic set of facts. These plaintiffs brought their sexual harassment claims in a single action, because they had been sexual harassed by the same coworker, their complaints had been ignored by the same managers, and they were both subjected to retaliation, while working at defendant. Defendant moved to have the Court order separate trials in separate actions, claiming that plaintiffs suffered different injuries and worked at different times. The Court denied defendant's motion, because plaintiffs would be deposing the same witnesses, and offering the same evidence, at trial, and defendant's motion would lead to a waste of judicial resources.
Plaintiffs, two African-American parents and their minor child, sued a school district for barring them from their child's school, following their complaint of racial discrimination. Initially, plaintiffs went to the Tennessee Department of Education, which warned the school district that if it did not reverse the ban, it could lose federal funding. When the district still refuse, the plaintiffs retained counsel. The Court agreed with plaintiffs that there was enough evidence for a jury to find the district, its superintendent, and board of education members liable. The case settled following the decision.
To harass plaintiffs, defendants may serve a subpoena on plaintiffs' current employers. Courts will generally not permit this tactic. Obviously, what happened after plaintiff left her employer is not relevant to her lawsuit, with the exception of how much money she made after leaving (information the plaintiff could provide). This Court quashed the subpoena, and told the defendant it should have simply asked the plaintiff, if it wanted to know.
This was one of the truly inane motions we have encountered. We wrote a letter to our client's current employer asking that it excuse her from work to attend a deposition. When she testified to this fact at her deposition, the defendant belatedly asked us to produce the letter. When we refused, because the letter was obviously irrelevant to the events at issue many years earlier at defendant, it inexplicably moved to compel production, on the theory that the letter "may contain plaintiff's impressions of defendant." The Court was not amused, and denied the motion, as "far too speculative and tenuous to merit any serious consideration."
This is a school peer-on-peer racial harassment case. The plaintiff was subjected to numerous slurs by his classmates, and eventually, his parents tired of the school's failure to remedy the situation, and brought suit. Defendants asked the Court to dismiss all of plaintiff's claims. One was dismissed, but the dismissal had no impact, since others which were identical were not dismissed. As a result, plaintiff prevailed completely against defendant's motion, and the case was ordered to trial. It settled before trial.
Plaintiff is entitled to choose the court in which he files suit. In this case, plaintiff contacted defendant to make a good faith effort to settle, before filing suit in the state he lived, Tennessee. Defendant pretended to be prepared to negotiate a settlement, all the while preparing its own suit, which it filed in its home state, Kentucky. The Court did not appreciate the deception, and dismissed the defendant's suit, allowing plaintiff to proceed in his home state.
This is a fascinating decision. African-American children in Northern High School, in Port Huron, were being subjected to peer racial harassment. The school district had know about it for years, but failed to respond adequately. The year before the case was filed, numerous African-American students were included in an anonymous "Hit List," which suggested they would be killed. Our firm represented twelve of the students. The Court denied defendant's motion (with one minor exception), ruling that the case should go to trial against the board of education on racial harassment. The Court also ruled that the individual school board members were not entitled to immunity. Defendants appealed. The United States Department of Justice joined the plaintiffs on appeal. The appellate court affirmed the lower court's decision to send the case to trial, but over a dissent, ruled that the individual board members were entitled to immunity.
This was a sexual harassment case against the University Club and one of its Banquet Captains, Mel Guzman. Plaintiffs alleged a sexually hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment. Defendant moved for summary judgment on all of plaintiffs' claims, and the motion was denied in its entirety. A jury eventually concluded that the plaintiffs were subjected to sexual harassment.
A motion is a written request to a court. A motion for summary judgment asks the court to dismiss the case because it is so weak no competent jury could find for the plaintiff. As the judge in this case noted, it is rare for race discrimination plaintiffs to survive summary judgment in this part of the country. Thus, we were particularly gratified, that the Court ruled in favor of the 60 courageous men and women we represented in this case.
This was a challenging case. Plaintiff, an openly gay man, was called a "pussy" and a "fag," by his coworker, with whom he had been friends. His former friend, and current harasser, was not bigoted against gays. As a consequence, this case could not be brought under NY State law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Plaintiff believed his harasser was trying to humiliate him with these remarks, by implying he did not meet the accepted standards of behavior for a man (which is gender stereotyping, not anti-gay discrimination), so the case was brought under Title VII, which prohibits gender stereotyping, but not anti-gay discrimination. Unfortunately, the plaintiff had written a letter to the defendant complaining that it was discriminating against him because he was a gay man. The Court seized upon this letter as proof that the discrimination at issue was anti-gay, not gender stereotyping (not covered under Title VII), and granted summary judgment as to that claim. We asked the court to reconsider its decision, because the letter reflected only the plaintiff's opinion, and did not explain why the harasser was harassing him, however, the Court refused to change his opinion. Fortunately, the retaliation claim survived, and the case settled.
Rule 12(f) allows a court to "strike" impertinent or scandalous allegations from a complaint. The defendant asked the Court to strike (dismiss) the entire complaint because it supposedly contained transcripts of recordings made in violation of Nevada law, where it is generally illegal secretly to tape. The Court denied the motion because, it reasoned, even if the tape was made illegally, the defendant would have the opportunity to keep it out of evidence at trial. The irony was that the writing at issue was not a transcript but notes of a conversation. We use Allison & Taylor to call our clients' former employers, to make sure they are not giving them bad references. In this case, we included the reference that the defendant gave the plaintiff, as evidence of retaliation.
The United States Department of Justice brought this case against a landlord and his superintendent for sexual harassment of tenants. The superintendent had previously plead guilty to raping children, and the U.S. wanted to prove that landlord hired him aware of his criminal history, in order to establish liability against the landlord. Our firm intervened on behalf of five of his victims. In this decision, the Court held that the U.S. was permitted to introduce evidence of his prior conviction, and that the landlord was aware of his criminal history, when he hired the harasser.
Plaintiff was a corrections officer, who was harassed by his coworkers and inmates, due to an injury to a sensitive area of his body, and the fact that he took time off due to the injury. Pictures of the officer were photo-shopped to an image of a man with that body part displayed. Plaintiff claimed that he was harassed due to a disability, that he was sexually harassed, and that he was harassed because he did not conform to norms of gender behavior. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint. The Court granted the portion of the motion seeking dismissal of the sexual harassment claim, noting that the inmates and coworkers were not acting due to romantic interest, however, relying on the same conduct, the Court found that the plaintiff was harassed because he did not conform to gender norms. The Court denied the portion of the motion seeking dismissal of the disability harassment claim.
Employers are allowed to require, as a condition of employment, that employees agree to abide by shorter statutes of limitations than our laws provide. This is maddeningly unfair. The plaintiffs in this case did not even realize that they had signed the forms, waiving their rights. Plaintiffs had filed their sexual harassment claims within three years, as required by Kentucky law. The defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that the form required that they bring the claims within six months. Defendant also moved to dismiss all of plaintiffs claims, on the ground that it had taken prompt remedial action in response to complaints. The Court denied that part of the motion, finding that it had done virtually nothing in response to complaints, however, it dismissed the claims under the shortened statute of limitations.
This defendant is known for its penchant for secrecy. It moved for an order requiring that plaintiff treat all of the employment records produced in litigation as confidential. The Court denied the motion because the defendant failed to identify any document which required such protection, or otherwise explain why such protection is necessary. Protesting, picketing, holding sit-ins, and other means of letting the public know how the defendant is violating our clients civil rights, are age old and honorable means of forcing defendants to stop violating the law, so our firm ordinarily opposes attempts by defendants to keep secrets.
This was an important decision for our firm and our clients, present and future. In our sex and race harassment cases, we always demand discovery of emails from/to supervisors or managers, which contain inappropriate sexual or racial content. We do this because it is such supervisors and managers who are charged with preventing sexual and racial harassment, and if they are engaged in inappropriate communications, it is unlikely they are doing their jobs. We ask for this material in discovery irrespective of whether our client was harassed with emails. We typically get two objections from defendants: no harassing emails were sent to your client, and the supervisors and managers in question did not harass your client. In this decision, the court rejected exactly those arguments, finding that the defendant's claim that the supervisors and managers took appropriate "steps to halt" the harassment, required that the emails be produced.
Prior Results do not Guarantee a Similar Outcomes