Bresky Law was recently successful in securing affirmance of a substantial verdict in favor of a former employee in a suit against her former employer for national origin discrimination and retaliation.
The Plaintiff began working for the employer through a temp agency and was later hired full-time. Shortly thereafter, persons from a certain country became the majority of the management in her workplace. The employer soon demoted the Plaintiff and reduced her pay, and replaced her with a less qualified employee from the same country as the majority of the management. The Plaintiff’s supervisor made comments confirming the Plaintiff’s belief that the reason for her demotion was that she is not from the same country. The Plaintiff spoke with human resources and attempted to improve her relationship with management. The Plaintiff’s efforts were unsuccessful, and the employer eventually fired her. The Plaintiff believed that she was terminated in retaliation for speaking to human resources about the discrimination.
The Plaintiff sued her employer in federal district court for national origin discrimination and retaliation under federal and Florida law. She prevailed after a jury trial, and obtained a substantial verdict in her favor. The employer appealed, arguing that there was a lack of an evidentiary basis to support the verdict and that the federal district court erred in denying its motion for judgment as a matter of law.
We represented the Plaintiff in the appeal. We argued that the Plaintiff provided sufficient evidence to support the verdict. Specifically, the Plaintiff had introduced evidence that her manager previously described her as agreeable and easy to work with, and she received no write-ups or discipline. However, after the ethnic composition of the management changed, the Plaintiff was demoted, told that the demotion was a result of the change, and told that the management needed someone “who was a better fit and who could communicate better” with the management. She was replaced with someone less qualified who was from the same country as most of the management members.
The federal appeals court agreed with our arguments. The appellate court found that the Plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence to support her claims. The appeals court noted that the jury was free to disregard or discount the witness testimony the employer had introduced in support of its case. The appeals court also rejected the employer’s argument that an inaccurate statement of the legal standard in the jury instruction—that the Plaintiff had to show that national origin was the motivating factor in her termination instead of a motivating factor—required the district court to grant the employer’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. Lastly, the appeals court concluded there was sufficient evidence to support the Plaintiff’s claim for retaliation and that the human resources officer who knew about her protected conduct (complaining to human resources) and who reviewed and approved her termination was a decisionmaker—which showed but-for causation.
This favorable result for our client protects the jury award obtained in her favor after trial.
* Not final until disposition of any timely filed motions for rehearing *