As we have previously reported, jury verdicts in employment cases have continued to skyrocket in recent months, and there is no sign they are leveling off. Late last week, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded a total of over $464 million ($440 million of which was in punitive damages) in a two-plaintiff retaliation case. This verdict is more than double any previous amount ever awarded and clearly qualifies as the largest verdict of its kind since the Fall of the Roman Empire.

The plaintiffs alleged they were retaliated against for making complaints about sexual and racial harassment in the workplace, directed at them and other coworkers, leading to their being pushed out of the company.

One plaintiff brought complaints to management about the alleged sexual harassment of two female employees, and claimed he was constructively discharged after being subjected to retaliatory complaints and investigations from other supervisors.  The other plaintiff made anonymous complaints to the internal ethics hotline about the racial and sexual harassment of both himself and other coworkers.

After a two-month trial, the jury awarded one plaintiff $22.4 million in compensatory damages and $400 million in punitive damages and awarded the other plaintiff $2 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages.

This latest verdict comes on the heels of a judge reducing another huge December 2021 verdict from a Los Angeles Superior Court jury (which we wrote about here) that awarded $5.4 million in compensatory damages and $150 million in punitive damages to a fired insurance company executive who alleged discrimination and retaliation. The judge ordered a reduction in the verdict to $18.95 million in punitive damages (or, in the alternative, a new damages trial) on the grounds that the prior verdict involved an impermissible double recovery ($75 million each from two Farmers Insurance entities) and a presumably unconstitutional ratio of punitive damages to compensatory damages (a ratio exceeding 9 or 10-to-1 is presumed to be excessive and unconstitutional, and the ratio in that case was 28-to-1).

Only time will tell if this $464 million verdict stands, but we will continue to monitor the case and provide updates as developments occur. In the meantime, our advice to employers worried about these gargantuan verdicts remains the same: ARBITRATE!

Print:
Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020; www.jurispub.com), co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.

Photo of Morgan Peterson Morgan Peterson

Morgan Peterson is an associate in the Labor & Employment Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration Group. She is a member of the Wage and Hour and the Class and Collective Action practice groups.

Morgan assists clients across a…

Morgan Peterson is an associate in the Labor & Employment Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration Group. She is a member of the Wage and Hour and the Class and Collective Action practice groups.

Morgan assists clients across a variety of industries with litigations and arbitrations relating to wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour, and whistleblower matters in both the single plaintiff and class and collective action contexts. She also counsels employers on a diverse range of workplace issues and their policy and handbook development. Morgan maintains an active pro bono practice representing individuals in immigration matters and providing employment counseling to non-profit organizations.

Morgan earned her J.D. from U.C. Irvine School of Law, where she was an Executive Editor of the UC Irvine Law Review and spent four semesters working in UCI’s Civil Rights Litigation Clinic. Morgan also served as a judicial extern for the Honorable John D. Early in the Central District of California. Morgan received her B.A., cum laude, from Tufts University.