A federal jury in the Southern District of New York recently decided that an African-American janitor from Queens -- who was represented by Gregory W. Kirschenbaum and Jesse S. Weinstein of Phillips & Associates at trial-- had experienced a race-based hostile work environment and that multiple defendants, including his employer, were liable. The jury also awarded the Plaintiff $1.8 million in damages. The outcome is a clear lesson that it is unacceptable for the N-word to be used in the workplace and the value (to a discrimination plaintiff) of having representation from a skilled New York race discrimination lawyer.
The case (and its outcome) provides a clear picture of what it takes to win a hostile work environment action in federal court.
In 2015, the janitor filed a complaint with his employer alleging that several coworkers, including supervisors had "repeatedly" used the N-word in his presence and that, on some occasions, they referred to him using that slur. A member of the Human Resources team investigated and found that the janitor's claims about usage of the N-word were "more likely than not" true, but still decided that the allegations of race discrimination were "unfounded."
Developing 'Extensive' Evidence to Produce a Successful Outcome
A few months later, Mr. Pardovani hired Phillips & Associates to represent him in his civil lawsuit. Southern District of New York District Court Judge, Sidney H. Stein, provided a brief thumbnail sketch of our representation: "Phillips & Associates handled the action from its inception through trial, including drafting the complaint, engaging in discovery proceedings, participating in settlement discussions, drafting motions in limine, and preparing for and trying the case before a jury. During a nine-day trial in November 2022, the jury heard extensive evidence that [Mr.] Pardovani’s coworkers repeatedly used the 'n-word' in his presence and even referred to him numerous times with that term."
The evidence and testimony developed during litigation served multiple functions. First, it allowed the Plaintiff to overcome the defendants’ motions requesting that the court throw out the case before trial (which is a motion for summary judgment.) Phillips & Associates successfully defeated these motions which allowed the case to go to trial.
Then, during the trial, Mr. Kirschenbaum and Mr. Weinstein successfully persuaded the jury, through direct testimony and the presentation of evidence, that coworkers, as well as supervisors, openly used the N-word in the workplace. The jury concluded that the use of this abhorrent slur created a hostile work environment under federal, state, and city law. At the conclusion of the trial, Mr. Pardovani was awarded $800,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $1,000,000 in punitive damages.
The Price of Not Retaining an Experienced Lawyer
A few years ago, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System looked at a study of trial court judges. That research revealed that nearly two-thirds (62%) of those judges said that civil court litigants who retained legal counsel experienced better outcomes than their counterparts who decided to go it on their own.
These findings are logical. If you're not a lawyer, you are not likely to be experienced in filing civil complaints, submitting document requests, propounding interrogatories, submitting requests for admission, deposing witnesses, drafting pre-trial motions and responses to pre-trial motions, molding the available evidence into a cohesive and persuasive trial presentation, examining and cross-examining witnesses, and convincing a jury that the law and the facts demand an award of compensation. Our team, however, is extensively experienced in all those things.
If you're someone who has experienced race discrimination on the job -- including coworkers and/or supervisors who used the N-word -- don't make the mistake of taking on the legal system on your own. Instead, rely on the knowledgeable and skillful New York race discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates to be the powerful legal advocate you deserve. You can contact our experienced attorneys online or by calling (833) 529-3476 to set up a free and confidential consultation. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you hold to account those responsible for your harm.