A recent lawsuit provides a case study on what NOT to do when handling employee complaints. How bad was it? A jury awarded an eight-figure payout to a fired worker.
To avoid similar mistakes, download our Practical Tools guide on handling employee complaints.
Here’s what happened – and where the company went wrong:
Company fired worker who complained about harassment
Who was involved: Equinox Holdings, Inc., a luxury gym chain, and a Black fitness instructor who was fired from her job at a location in New York City.
What happened: The former employee’s lawsuit alleged a hostile work environment and unlawful termination in violation of Title VII and New York State Human Rights Law. Specifically, she said the company ignored her complaints about a co-worker’s racist and sexually inappropriate comments. Among other things, the co-worker allegedly made vulgar comments about Black women’s bodies, used racially offensive slurs and encouraged clients to work with white personal trainers. Rather than dealing with the co-worker’s misconduct, the company retaliated against the employee by firing her for her purported “lateness,” the lawsuit claimed. After a New York federal court refused to dismiss the claims, the case went before a Manhattan jury.
Result: The jury sided with the former employee, awarding:
- $1.25 million in compensatory damages, and
- $10 million in punitive damages.
The employee will also receive $16,000 in economic damages representing back pay, which was previously agreed to by the parties.
Info: Jury verdict in Robynn Europe v. Equinox Holdings, Inc., 5/16/23.