Retaliation: An Expensive Proposition

Posted 09-16-2010

We’ve written a lot lately about the growth in retaliation claims, which in 2009 were the #1 claim brought before the EEOC. State courts are seeing these cases, too, and juries are awarding high damages when managers “get even” with employees.

Kim and Robert Hill are a married couple who both worked for the Kentucky Lottery Commission. They were friendly with a co-worker, Edward Gilmore, who was legally blind, and expressed concern that he was being discriminated against on the job because of his disability. After Gilmore lost his job and filed for unemployment, Kim was pressured by Lottery Commission management to testify at Gilmore’s unemployment hearing that he was not legally blind. When she refused, the Commission began what the Kentucky Supreme Court described as a “campaign of harassment and intimidation against them, culminating with the termination of their employment.”

After a three-week trial, the jury came back with a verdict for the Hills, awarding compensatory and punitive damages of $2.6 Million for Robert and $1.7 Million for Kim. The judge added 6% interest and $213 thousand in attorneys’ fees.

The Lottery Commission took appeals all the way through the Kentucky Supreme Court, which affirmed the jury verdict, but because the justices thought the trial judge had cut too much from the Hills’ original attorneys’ fee application of $450 thousand, they sent the case back to the lower court for an award of additional attorneys’ fees. (Hill v. Ky. Lottery Comm’n, 2010 Ky LEXIS 82 (Ky. 2010))

What this means to you:

Don’t let your organization make headlines like this case did! Be sure all managers and supervisors have been trained on their legal responsibilities, including preventing discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.