Human Resources News & Insights

3 dumb retaliation cases that cost firms big

Retaliation is the most common employment discrimination claim for the third year running – and that’s no surprise, what with the way these three firms acted.

Won’t somebody please think of the children?

Marla Pietrowski was a senior case manager for Philadelphia’s The Kintock Group. The company helps ex-convicts who’ve been released from prison transition back into society.

Pietrowski grew concerned when a manager at her firm brought his child into the workplace — a real issue considering that some of the ex-convicts were child predators. She also believed that the manager was abusing drugs.

So Pietrowski brought her concerns to her superiors — and was fired.

She sued, claiming that she was retaliated against for blowing the whistle on her boss.

The company decided to take the case to trial, where a jury ruled in Pietrowski’s favor. She was awarded nearly $1.7 million – $100,000 in pain and suffering, $77,988.75 in back pay and $1.5 million in punitive damages.

Retaliation for being old?

David Nelson, 55, had been gainfully employed for more than 25 years at RadioShack’s regional office in Denver. He also had a spotless performance record.

But that all changed when a new 43-year-old supervisor was assigned to oversee his work. Within four months, Nelson had been placed on two performance improvement plans.

Nelson, concerned that his manager was discriminating against him because of his age, complained to HR. Five days later, he was terminated.

Nelson went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which sued Radioshack on his behalf. A jury ruled in his favor, and Nelson was awarded $674,938 – $187,706 in liquidated damages, $199,470 in front pay damages, $187,706 in back pay and $101,657 to offset the increased tax burden of receiving the entire judgment in one lump sum.

Fired for complaining to EEOC

Finally, non-profit Grand Central Partnership recently settled a retaliation lawsuit that included tinges of racism and violence.

According to the EEOC, a non-Rastafarian security officer for the firm allegedly threatened to shoot a group of Rastafarian officers.

The Rastafarian workers complained — but a white supervisor made fun of their concerns and insinuated the incident was the Rastafarian staffers’ fault.

One of the officers, who also claimed that the supervisor had used the N-word before, contacted the EEOC about the incident. He was fired.

The EEOC then sued Grand Central on behalf of the officer, and the company settled. In addition to a $135,000 settlement, the company agreed to conduct extensive training on investigating discrimination complaints, including methods for proper documentation and unbiased assessment of witness credibility.

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  • Horace Tucker

    The problem with all of these settlements is this: all that money has to come from some place. Businesses and non-profits do not have mounds of money sitting around doing nothing. Even if they have insurance coverage, that money came from somewhere. It came from working people, that’s where.

    • Anarchy

      Well they will hire responsible and intelligent managers instead of the good ole boys. they were rightly sued because they broke the law and “At Will” does not protect illegal acts. DO SOME MORE LEGAL RESEARCH FAKE job lawyer HORSE RACE TUCKER.

    • WhimpyKid

      ahahahhahahahhahhaha

    • Ah, therefore, it is GOOD to break the law. That’s what you mean.

  • joblawyer

    You should probably do more research before listing this example. The reason people are sueing is bc they cannot find another job quickly due to the economic status of our country. What is an employer to do, if you document that an employee is not doing their job or lying for the purpose to sue? The issue is not always the ‘evil employer.’ Some times its the ‘greedy employee’ that could not accept that they were not a good employee any longer and in an at will state, you do not need ANY reason to terminate anyone…do some more legal research!!!

    • ChrisSolon

      @joblawyer – If you are indeed an attorney, you most likely are a poor one, as you failed miserably at legal research and legal analysis. How ironic, you then tell others to do more legal research.

      In an at-will employment state, and employer can terminate an employee with or without reason, as long as the employer does not violate the employees rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. If an employee made a legitimate complaint of discrimination to the employer or to the EEOC, or provided information in an employment discrimination investigation and was terminated for doing so, that is retaliation. In other words, there must be some causal connection between the employees termination and a complaint of discrimination. If an employee is terminated due to “not doing their job” and the employee had never made any complaints of discrimination or provided information in a discrimination investigation, the terminated employee would not be able to file a retaliation suit against the employer.

      Your argument that it is just greedy employees, is simply moot.

    • What is the reason the employers LOST these suits? They were morons and broke the law, that’s the reason.