Actually, there’s about $280,000 worth of power in it, to be more precise.
In a move that may force some to change their workplace habits, jurors in a federal court awarded compensatory damages to Brandi Johnson in the amount of $250,000 in her lawsuit against her employer, STRIVE, a non-profit employment center in East Harlem.
This comes after an earlier award of $30,000 in punitive damages to be paid by both the organization who will pay $5,000 and its founder, who must pony up $25,000.
Johnson, who is African American, sued the company alleging she was a victim of a hostile work environment after enduring verbal harassment and tirades, one lasting 4 minutes that she recorded on a phone, filled with racially provocative slurs from her supervisor and STRIVE founder, Rob Carmona.
Carmona, who identifies as being both black and Hispanic, testified that the use of the word nigger was “tough love” needed at times to make a statement to his charges.
But Johnson claimed that she was targeted by Carmona after she came to the defense of an employee who was being sexually harassed by another STRIVE employee. The complaint also states that Johnson formally notified the CEO of the company about her concerns on April 11, 2012 saying that she felt she was made to endure discriminatory, harassing and retaliatory attacks from Carmona. CEO Phil Weinberg was not receptive to her issues stating that she was “out of line” and “too emotional”. One month later in June of 2012, Weinberg fired Johnson.
Johnson testified that her firing was retaliation for her complaints about the sexual harassment and because of her race and gender. The jury concurred.
This verdict comes in sharp contrast to the judgment rendered in the Paula Deen lawsuit in August.
Earlier in that month, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. threw out the racial discrimination charges against Deen but allowed the remaining hostile work environment and harassment charges to remain under review.
Judge Moore determined that the plaintiff, Lisa Jackson, had no standing, as a white person, to sue in a racial discrimination lawsuit where the injured parties were African American.
Less than two weeks later, Judge Moore signed off on a deal reached by both parties that allowed the lawsuit to be dismissed. The case will be closed, “with prejudice”, meaning that former employee Lisa Jackson will not be able to sue again for the same reasons.
When news of the dismissal reached her, Paula Deen said in a statement that she looked forward to putting the case behind her but also would be taking a good look at the workplace cultures in her businesses.
Sources: CNN, MSNBC, CBS