JUST 10 DAYS OF HARASSMENT MERITS $75,000 IN DAMAGES & MORE
An employee of the Federal Bureau of Prisons filed a formal EEO complaint in which he alleged that from April 15 through April 24, 2013, several senior management officials subjected him to a hostile work environment because of his race (Caucasian), sex (male), and disability (hearing loss). Specifically, the employee alleged that he was subjected to harassment in the form of jokes, comments, and ridicule with regard to his hearing impairment. The Judge agreed with the employee and ordered the agency to pay the employee $75,000 in compensatory damages. The agency was stunned that just ten days of illegal harassment merited so much money and asked EEOC to review the judge’s decision. Here is why the EEOC not only agreed with the Judge but also ordered the agency to restore 180 hours of leave to the employee.
EEOC began by noting that, “When discrimination is found, the Agency must provide the Complainant with a remedy that constitutes full, make-whole relief to restore him as nearly as possible to the position he would have occupied absent the discrimination.” Consequently, aside from back pay, employees also “may receive compensatory damages for past and future pecuniary losses (i.e., out-of-pocket expenses) and non-pecuniary losses (e.g., pain and suffering, mental anguish) as part of this “make whole” relief.”
The employee stated via an affidavit that “he continued to suffer from the effects of the harassment, including emotional distress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, humiliation, embarrassment. He testified that he had to take personal sick days to alleviate some of the pressure he felt, that he could no longer go out to dinner or to social events, that his fiancée had left him because of his need to move out of the area as a result of the harassment, and that as of the date of the hearing, which took place over three years after the occurrence of the harassment, he was still struggling with the trauma.” When the agency offered no evidence to rebut the employee’s testimony, EEOC wrote, “Complainant’s hearing testimony, deemed credible by the AJ, constitutes enough evidence to document the severity and duration of the harm he suffered. Statements from health care providers, family members, friends or coworkers, which undoubtedly would have been helpful, were not necessary to justify the size of award in light of Complainant’s hearing testimony.”
In response to the agency argument that the award was too much given that the harassment lasted only ten days, the Commission declared, “While the duration of the discriminatory conduct is a factor in determining the extent of the harm suffered, so too is the duration of the harm itself.”
If you are ever involved in a case where the harassment was of a short duration don’t think that the back pay liability will not be much or worth pursuing. For more details on this case check out Ricardo K. v. Jeff B. Sessions, Attorney General, (Federal Bureau of Prisons), EEOC Appeal No. 0720170030 (2017).