Employment law firm Burnette Dobson & Pinchak, LLP (BDP) won one of the largest single-plaintiff employment law verdicts in Northeast Tennessee in February on behalf of a former funeral home worker.
On Feb. 2, 2018, a federal court jury in Greeneville, Tenn., awarded BDP client Andrea Herring more than $2 million in damages in a sexual harassment and retaliation case. BDP attorneys Donna Mikel and Doug Hamill represented the plaintiff against her former employer, East Lawn Funeral Home. East Lawn Funeral Home is owned by Service Corporation International (SCI), which is the world’s largest provider of funeral and cemetery services.
Ms. Herring was sexually harassed by a male co-worker, who exposed Ms. Herring and other female employees to sexual jokes, sexual comments, invitations for sex, sexually-inappropriate pictures, and eventually sexually inappropriate touching.
Despite her repeated complaints to management, including a regional human resources manager, the employer failed to take prompt remedial action. Instead of disciplining the harasser, the employer began to retaliate against Ms. Herring. In frustration, Ms. Herring eventually complained about the retaliation and continued harassment in an email to corporate officials. Within hours of sending this email, she was fired. Thereafter, the employer blackballed Ms. Herring by giving out bad job references, thus forcing Ms. Herring to relocate from the Tri-Cities area to Chattanooga to find substitute employment.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of Ms. Herring on Feb. 1, awarding her $300,000 in compensatory damages. On Feb. 2, after 30 minutes of deliberation, the jury assessed punitive damages of $1,750,000 against the employer.