A jury finds that a promising woman neurosurgeon was bumped off-track by a campaign of sex harassment and retaliation, in violation of Title VII and Massachusettes civil rights law. The First Circuit affirms awards of $600,000 against the Hospital in compensatory damages on the retaliation claim and $1,000,000 in compensatory damages against it on the hostile work environment claim (with lesser awards for other state law claims), and $1,352,525.94 in attorneys' fees.
The management decision in this case not to separate an employee with a sex-harassment complaint from the alleged harasser (who was also the employee's supervisor) puts the employer in a vice - it now faces a trial for both sex harassment and retaliatory harassment under Title VII and Puerto Rican law. The First Circuit specifically recognizes that a supervisor who ratchets up work and otherwise intensifies harassment against an employee for refusing to yield to sexual demands may create a new claim for retaliation.
Today we log two wins for ADA "regarded as" disability discrimination claimants. In the First Circuit, the panel holds that a district court too hastily dismissed a complaint of disability discrimination, alleging that the employer refused to assign a mentally-ill employee anywhere in the workplace. In the Sixth Circuit, the panel (in an unpublished opinion) astoundingly overturns a jury verdict for the employer - and orders entry of judgment for the employee - where the company placed the plaintiff on involuntary medical leave based solely on an unclear state-court order and without an independent examination of the employee.
Here's our first published opinion addressing the recently-decided Staub v. Proctor Hosp., 131 S. Ct. 1186 (2011), in the context of a fully-tried case. The Third Circuit holds in this Title VII case that the district court did not err in denying judgment as a matter of law for the city. It concludes that the jury could have found that the plaintiff's Police Board of Inquiry hearings (which led to his termination) did not break the chain of causation from the retaliatory write-up that commenced the disciplinary process.
A timely reminder from the Seventh Circuit that There is no "bottom-line" defense to Title VII (Connecticut v. Teal, 457 U.S. 440 (1982)): an employer does not earn immunity from Title VII liability by pointing to minority employees whom it did not treat as shabbily.
We don't see too many published Title VII appeals concerning quid pro quo/"tangible employment action" sex harassment - claims that a harasser used his supervisory authority to punish the employee in some way for not submitting to demands for sex - but the Fourth Circuit issued such a decision yesterday. On slightly different reasoning, the panel majority and concurring judge agree that the case should be remanded for a trial on that theory, as well as straight hostile-work-environment and retaliation claims.
Two circuits weigh in today on the award of attorneys fees, with both outcomes favoring plaintiffs' counsel. One, from the Second Circuit, tackles an unreasonably low $204 fee for a successful trial on a claim of FMLA interference. The other, from the Fifth Circuit, reverses the award of Eastern District of Texas attorneys' rates in a Title VII case to a trial team from Oakland, California, where "an avalanche of unrebutted evidence" establishes that no addition al local lawyers could or would have taken the case.