Court Upholds $550,000 Verdict For Racial Abuse
Bagby’s employee handbook included an anti-discrimination policy, but the company’s president testified that he was not that familiar with it and was unsure how he would discipline an employee for a violation.
In response to the EEOC charge, Bagby required all employees to sign an agreement requiring all past, present and future claims to be arbitrated. When Goldsmith refused to sign the agreement as written, he was terminated. He then filed a new retaliation charge. A U.S. District Court jury awarded Goldsmith $54,321 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta upheld the jury’s award, finding that the employer’s reckless indifference to the employee’s civil rights justified the award.
The 11th Circuit noted the case provided "an important reminder: despite considerable racial progress, racism persists as an evil to be remedied in our Nation." Goldsmith v. Bagby Elevator Co. Inc., 11th Cir., No. 06-14440 (1/17/08).
Impact: It not sufficient for an employer to simply have a policy and complaint procedure addressing unlawful harassment in the workplace. Employers are advised to communicate their policies, conduct effective training of employees, promptly investigate suspected harassment issues and take steps to put an end to such conduct.
Workforce Management, March 17, 2008, p. 8 -- Subscribe Now!