Jury awards $20,251,963 in Lawsuit for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A federal jury has returned a unanimous verdict awarding a total of $20,251,963 to eight former employees of Four Amigos Travel, Inc. and Top Dog Travel, Inc., a former Florida vacation agency with offices in Largo, Orlando and Lake Lauderdale, Fla., who suffered sexual harassment and retaliation.  

According to the EEOC's suit, travel agency owner Ronald Schlom and male managers working at Four Amigos / Top Dog's Largo facility subjected a class of female employees to egregious sexual harassment on a daily basis.  The abuse included unwanted sexual advances, physical touching and repeated propositions for sex in a work environment filled with sexual banter, abuse of power and outright disrespect for women.  Further, the EEOC said, the company fired a manager for bringing forth the victims' complaints.  Members of the class of victims, as well as the three intervenors, testified as to how the hostile work environment affected their lives.

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  The case was tried by EEOC Senior Trial Attorneys Gregory L. McClinton and Aarrin B. Golson.

On April 30 the jury returned a unanimous verdict awarding $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages to five former employees.  The court also awarded them $99,876 in back pay.  The jury also awarded two former female employees, Anne Patricia Matacchiero and Lisamarie Huskey-Egan, along with former manager Brian Egan, $1.25 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages.  The court awarded these three employees an additional $402,087 in back pay.  Matacchiero, Huskey-Egan and Mr. Egan intervened in the EEOC's suit.   

The trial was limited to damages as the corporate defendants defaulted and presented no defense or evidence at the hearing.  The EEOC's verdicts on behalf of the female class members have been reduced to the $200,000 caps on compensatory non-economic and punitive damages under Title VII.  The court has also reserved jurisdiction to hear requests for injunctive relief from the EEOC.

Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).  Eliminating practices that prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes is another one of six national priorities.

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