Jury Awards $3 Million to a School District’s Employees for Unlawful Retaliation AND An Editor Sues Associated Press for Race Discrimination and Retaliation

Last Friday, a federal jury awarded over $3 million dollars to six current and former employees of a school district.  The employees’ main allegation was that they were demoted and their salaries were reduced as an act of retaliation by the board of trustees due to the employees’ political affiliation during a prior election season.  Making their case even stronger was the fact that the school district’s superintendent testified that those board trustees ordered him to take the adverse actions against the employees because the trustees’ political supporters asked them to take those steps.  One of the reasons that judge sided with the employees’ was their constitutional due process right to side with a political party.  An employer may not take retaliatory action against an employee for lawfully participating in the political process.   Therefore, according to the judge both the district and the trustees should be reprimanded for their retaliatory conduct.

On Monday, an editor of the Associated Press (“AP”) sued the news agency for permitting a hostile work environment to persist against African American employees and then retaliating against her after she complained. Sonya L. Ross was a standout journalist for the AP for many years.  After she noticed gender discrimination and race discrimination against black workers, she filed a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.  The Labor Department agreed.  Subsequently, Ms. Ross was continually retaliated against by being humiliated in front of other reporters by her white supervisor as well as being pulled from her prestigious assignments to mediocre ones.  The case is pending resolution of her complaints for back and front pay, fringe benefits, compensatory and punitive damages, and to be reinstated to a position commensurate with her experience.

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) prohibits retaliation against anyone who participates in lawful activity, files a complaint against a company’s breaking of a rule, or testifies or assists in proceedings under FEHA.  “Retaliation” is defined as engaging in a protected activity, such as the three examples above, that you were subjected to a negative employment action (such as demotion, firing, withholding of benefits, verbal or physical abuse) due to that protected activity, and you suffered damages. See these other blogs for recent retaliation case analysis.

If you believe that you, or another employee, suffered an employment law matter related to race discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, prompt action to preserve your rights is vital since the statute of limitation is a short one year.  Contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates for a free no obligation consultation to discuss your circumstances and legal options.