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A California Jury Strikes Again – Hands Out $11 Million Verdict

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.

Law clerk, Cole Lewis, contributed to this piece.

© 2020 Proskauer Rose LLP.


About this Author

Anthony J Oncidi, Employment Attorney, Proskauer Rose Law Firm

Anthony J. Oncidi heads the Labor & Employment Law Group in the 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....