Plaintiff was a 40-year-old employee of a large national mortgage company. She claimed that her work environment became hostile when her supervisor began making inappropriate comments about her looks. One day, when her supervisor came back from a business trip he forced her against a wall and attempted two times to kiss her.
Plaintiff immediately reported the harassment to upper management, who failed to take any significant steps to discipline the harasser. Within days of reporting the harassment plaintiff was fired because $200 was missing from her cash account. The company did not actually claim that plaintiff stole the money, however the company claimed that it had a zero tolerance for missing funds and the fact that the $200 was missing was automatic grounds for termination.
The company only offered $90,000 to settle the case before trial, thus plaintiff and Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP, took the case to trial.
The company defended itself at trial by claiming that the sexual harassment was not severe or pervasive and that plaintiff’s firing was justified because it could establish that $200 was missing from plaintiff’s cash account, even if it could not establish that plaintiff stole the money. Further, the company claimed that the termination was automatically mandated by company policy and that the timing of the termination was unfortunate but had nothing to do with plaintiff’s sexual harassment complaint.
At the trial Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP, partners John Winer and Alexis McKenna put on substantial evidence that there was, in fact, severe and pervasive sexual harassment, and that the mortgage company’s grounds for terminating plaintiff were merely a pretext, and they wanted to get rid of her because she had become a problem employee once she complained about the sexual harassment.
To establish the pretextual nature of the termination, Winer, McKenna & Burritt, LLP, called to the stand a number of witnesses who stated that missing cash was not “automatic” grounds for termination and that there had been a number of male employees in the company who had missing cash who were not terminated by the very same manager who insisted that plaintiff’s firing was non-discretionary.
After three weeks of trial, it came to light that the company had failed in pre-trial discovery to produce key documents which aided plaintiff’s pretext theory. The judge then ordered a mistrial and indicated to punish the mortgage company he would award plaintiff and her attorneys all of their costs and attorneys fees, which were over $600,000 at that point in the trial. Rather than face the attorneys fee award and the retrial, the company settled the case for $800,000.
Post-trial settlement on behalf of plaintiff for $800,000