GETTING $$$,$$$ FOR EMOTIONAL STRESS
The secret is getting out quickly. Over the last three years, employees have frequently received checks for $100,000 and more for the emotional stress managers have illegally caused them. Here is how.
The recent EEOC decision entitled Fivecoat v. Donley, Appeal No. 0720110035 (5/15/12) involved a former Air Force employee who charged her second-line manager with creating a hostile sexual environment that caused her considerable stress. She proved through her testimony and that of co-workers, including another supervisor, that the second-line manager regularly demeaned women–whether they worked for the government or not. Characterizations such as “bitches,” “slobs,” and “sluts” commonly came out of the manager’s mouth while at work. EEOC had no problem finding the managers comments over a two-year period to be “sufficiently severe or pervasive” to violate law.
The employee asked for non-pecuniary damages for the emotional stress all this caused her. She testified about how the manager’s behavior had caused her to be depressed, lose sleep, and suffer digestive as well blood pressure problems. Her testimony was corroborated by a friend. When the Air Force failed to refute the emotional harm, EEOC ordered it to write the former employee a check for $100,000 to compensate her for the harm.
The message for employees and their union reps is that there is now another good reason for pushing back against the manager or even co-worker who creates a hostile work environment because of a bias based on race, religion, age, national origin, gender, or any other protected status. Employees even qualify if the hostile environment is part of management retaliation for exercising a protected right such as filing an EEO charge, testifying for an employee who filed a charge, etc. Don’t just “grin and bear it.” File an EEO charge or a grievance alleging a violation of civil rights law. (Arbitrators have the same power to order money damage awards.)
A few days before Fivecoat was issued, the EEOC issued another decision in which it awards $150,000 in a similar case. Entitled Coopwood v. Dept. of Transportation, EEOC Appeal No. 0120083127 May 2, 2012), this case provides a good example of what kind of evidence is needed to sustain such a large claim. Ms. Coopwood relied on an affidavit from her Counselor who had rated her 90 out of 95 on the Taylor-Johnson depression scale as well as statements from the union representative, leave records, her performance appraisal, and a neighbor who had helped her recover after one hospitalization for depression. The Commission has regularly made clear that statements from friends, family members, health care providers and even religious counselors are admissible.
If you want to read more about federal employees who received six-figure awards for emotional distress, check out the cases listed below:
- Fonda-Wall v. Department of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0720060035 (July 29, 2009)– $200,000.
- Lopez-Rosende v. U.S. Postal Service, EEOC Appeal No. 0120102789 (November 30, 2010)– $150,000
- Chastain v. Department of the Navy, EEOC Appeal No. 0120102409 (November, 17, 2010)–$115,000
- Gray v. Department of Interior, EEOC Appeal No. 0120072136 (July 24, 2009). $100,000 and another $6,100 to pay the income tax on that back pay
- Brown-Fleming v. Department of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0120082667 (Oct. 28, 2010)–$150,000
- Conrad v. Department of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0120090690 (April 9, 2010)–$100,000
- Yasko v. Department of Army, EEOC Appeal No. 01A32340 (April 21, 2004)–$100,000