June 18, 2015 was a day of celebration for Tameeka Roberts. With the assistance of her attorney, Roberts obtained a jury verdict of $100,000 for being discriminated against and by her supervisor, Donald Woodard, due to her sexual orientation while employed at United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS). The jury verdict was upheld by the Court on July 27, 2015. Roberts v. UPS, 2015 WL 4509994 (E.D.N.Y., July 27, 2015).
Roberts, a lesbian, lives with her wife and three sons in New Jersey. She has been employed with UPS since 1995. Woodard supervised Roberts from 2007-2008 and 2010-2012. Conflict began in 2007 when Roberts complained to Woodard regarding a denigrating comment he made to her about another lesbian employee. Throughout most of the time that Woodard was Roberts's supervisor, Woodard made repeated discriminatory comments regarding Roberts's sexual orientation, such as “Being a lesbian is a sin…it says so in the bible.” Roberts repeatedly complained to Woodard and several higher-ranking UPS employees, including Human Resources and corporate headquarters, to no avail.
In late 2012, UPS’s Human Resources Department launched an investigation in Roberts’s complaints of discrimination. Beverly Riddick, UPS’s Human Resources Operations Manager, conducted the investigation and found that Roberts’s allegations were factual, but, however, did not believe such conduct constituted discrimination or harassment. Thereafter, UPS allowed Woodard to continue to work with and supervise Roberts until mid-January 2013 when he was transferred to another location.
On December 3, 2012, Roberts received permission to miss work to appear for traffic court, which was noted in her time card; however, the following day, her time card indicated she was absent without calling in. She believed Woodard altered her time card.
On December 21, 2012, Roberts suffered injuries to her face, shoulder, and hand when packages fell on top of her. After Roberts was hit, she looked up and saw Woodard above her. Woodard was attempting a UPS procedure called “breaking a jam” but failed to follow safety protocol. He was not disciplined for this.
The discipline Woodard received as a result of Roberts’s complaints was he was transferred to another location, had to review UPS policies and procedures, and draft two written statements. UPS’s investigation was terminated without recourse, finding Roberts’s allegations as “unsubstantiated.” Roberts also filed a complaint of discrimination with the New York State Division of Human Rights.
Hostile Work Environment
Phillips & Associates' New York discrimination lawyers brought the lawsuit under the N.Y.C. Human Rights Law, New York City Administrative Code 8-502(a) ("NYCHRL"), which provides greater protection for employees than its state or federal counterparts. NYCHRL states that it is unlawful to create a hostile work environment based on discrimination because of sexual orientation. Plaintiff need only to prove that she was treated "less well than other employees… at least in part for a discriminatory reason."
To bring a claim for Retaliation under the NYCHRL, a plaintiff must prove:
- She engaged in a protected activity
- Her employer was aware she participate in the activity
- She suffered an action that would reasonably likely to deter a person from engaging in the activity
- There is a causal connection between the protected activity and adverse reaction.
The retaliation does not need to result in a materially adverse change to the terms and conditions of employment.
Roberts sought both compensatory and punitive damages against UPS. The jury found in favor of Roberts, awarding her $25,000 compensatory damages and $25,000 punitive damages for each claim, totaling $100,000. The plaintiff is also entitled to all attorney fees and costs which can be significant.
UPS moved to dismiss the case post-trial but Senior U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein upheld the jury's findings and awards on all counts.
Victory for Ms. Roberts and Our Sexual Orientation Discrimination Attorneys
Our determined and experienced discrimination lawyers successfully sought the justice Ms. Roberts deserves. For more information regarding a hostile work environment, discrimination, and/or retaliation, call (866) 229-9441 to speak to our knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at Phillips & Association.
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