Navy veteran retaliated against for whistleblower complaint. $1.7M. San Bernardino County.
Employee of defense subcontractor refuses to take photographs of equipment on military base when ordered to do so, reports those improper orders to general contractor, and is later fired on a pretext.
- Case Name: Randall Benart v. DA Defense Logistics HQ, LLC
- Court and Case Number: San Bernardino Superior Court / CIVDS1604978
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, December 24, 2019
- Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, April 06, 2016
- Type of Action: Discrimination, ADA, Employment, Whistleblower
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Bryan F. Foster
- Plaintiffs: Randall Benart
- Defendants: DA Defense Logistics HQ. LLC
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $1,749,465.34
- Economic Damages:
Civil penalty: $10,000
- Non-Economic Damages:
- Punitive Damages:
- Trial or Arbitration Time: The jury trial commenced on November 4, 2019, and was bifurcated for punitive damages.
- Jury Polls: On November 20, 12-0 for plaintiff on whistleblower retaliation; 11-1 for plaintiff on disability discrimination and failure to accommodate. For defense, 12-0 on CFRA retaliation and FEHA retaliation. In a separate trial on punitive damages, 11-1 in favor of plaintiff.
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: JNOV and Motion for a New Trial - Denied on 3/16/2020. Motion for Attorney's Fees & Costs - Granted in part on 3/10/2020. Defendant's Notice of Appeal - filed 3/3/2020.
- Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Abramson Labor Group by Jeremy J. Levy, Christina Begakis, Nissim Levin, Zev Abramson and Jack Gindi, Los Angeles.
- Attorney for the Defendant:
Law Offices of Thomas F. Nowland by Sarah Simon, Sean B. Janzen, Daniel A. Brodnax and Thomas F. Nowland, Newport Beach.
- Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
Deanna Foster, Ph.D., psychology.
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
Plaintiff started working at the Fort Irwin military base in 2007 for Northrup Grumman, and his contract was taken over in 2014 by DA Defense, who became a subcontractor to Northrop Grumman. Plaintiff worked as a non-military personnel supervisor on the military base in two facilities, the Small Arms department and COMMEL communications department.
On September 21, 2015, defendant requested that photos be taken of various military equipment in the Small Arms and COMMEL departments. Plaintiff refused to take or provide the photos because both the Small Arms and COMMEL departments are subject to a secret clearance and photos are not permitted without prior written authorization from Fort Irwin. Plaintiff reported the improper request to Northrup Grumman. Plaintiff was then reprimanded by DA Defense for going “outside company channels” on September 29, 2015.
After refusing to provide the classified materials on September 21, plaintiff was written up 12 times by DA Defense, after never having received a single write-up over his eight years on the base. He was also denied time off for visits to the VA hospital to treat his PTSD and for physical therapy, and was written up when he kept those appointments in spite of the denial. Finally, plaintiff was terminated on March 14, 2017, for “timecard fraud” despite the fact he was a salaried employee.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
That Navy veteran Randall Benart was retaliated against for a whistleblower complaint regarding taking photos in classified areas by his employer DA Defense Logistics HQ, LLC. That plaintiff was improperly investigated after his complaints, denied leave to treat his PTSD and physical injuries, and eventually terminated for pretextual reasons.
Plaintiff had emailed Human Resources on October 15, 2016, to inform them of how he filled out his timecards and that all supervisors filled out the timecards in the exact same manner. Further, it was shown over the course of trial that other supervisors filled out timecards in the exact same manner as plaintiff and were never disciplined, which gave rise to the finding by the jury that the termination was pretextual.
- Defendant's Contentions:
That plaintiff was investigated after employee complaints, that he improperly filled out his timecards and was warned about it on several occasions, and then terminated.
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $770,000, issued in September 2019.
- Defendant §998 Offer: January of 2019 for $25,000 exclusive of fees and costs.