A Los Angeles jury awarded more than $11 million to two former employees who claimed they were sexually harassed and retaliated against for complaining about the harassment.
Megan Meadowcroft and Amber Brown, who worked at the Keyways Vineyard and Winery in Temecula, California, alleged they had been harassed by the general manager, Carlos Pineiro.
Meadowcroft and Brown filed an FEHA sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit, claiming that Pineiro made sexually inappropriate comments to Brown, touched her on the knee, was drunk at work, and threated to harm Brown if she complained about his behavior. Meadowcroft alleged that Pineiro also made sexually explicit comments, took pictures of her rear, touched her rear and vagina, and pushed her against a wall and told her that he would make her a manager if she had sex with him. After complaining, the two were taken off the work schedule.
Brown claimed panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, while Meadowcroft also described symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder.
A jury sided with Meadowcroft and Brown on all causes of action for harassment, retaliation, failure to prevent harassment/retaliation, and negligent in supervision, retention or hiring. The jury awarded each of the women $1 million for past emotional distress damages, $1.5 million for future emotional distress damages, and $3 million in punitive damages, for a total verdict of $11 million. Added to that amount will be a substantial amount of prevailing-party attorney’s fees as well.
We’ve reported on massive verdicts against employers in California again and again. With massive punitive damages accounting for more than half of the total award in this case, this is yet another example of why California sits atop the judicial hellhole list year in and year out.