Restaurant worker claims racial and sexual harassment, wrongful termination. $1.6 million. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Plaintiff's symptoms of schizophrenia re-appear after stress of harassment on the job. $1,500,000 awarded in non-economic damages.

The Case

  • Case Name: Daniel Beasley v. East Coast Foods, Inc. d.b.a. Roscoe's House of Chicken n' Waffles
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC509995
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, September 08, 2015
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, May 24, 2013
  • Type of Action: Discrimination, Racial, Employment, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Wrongful Termination
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Steven J. Kleifield
  • Plaintiffs:
    Daniel Beasley, 48, restaurant worker.
  • Defendants:
    East Coast Foods, Inc. d.b.a. Roscoe's House of Chicken n' Waffles
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $1,661,800
  • Net Verdict or Award: $1,661,800
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    $1,661,800

  • Economic Damages:

    $161,800

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $1,500,000

  • Punitive Damages:

    None.

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 13 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days.
  • Jury Polls: Various.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Plaintiff will file motion for attorneys fees and costs. Defendant intends to move for a new trial.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Cummings & Franck, P.C. by Scott O. Cummings and Lee Franck, Gardena.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Glen Mertens, San Diego.

    Law Office of Audrey Y. Ripley by Audrey Y. Ripley, Sylmar.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Franklin Milgrim, M.D., psychiatry, Beverly Hills.

    Craig Snyder, Ph.D., psychology, Beverly Hills.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Suzanne Dupee, M.D., psychiatry, Manhattan Beach.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff was hired in June of 2012 at Roscoe's House of Chicken n' Waffles on Manchester and Main, in Los Angeles. He worked as a shift leader.  He was transferred to the Roscoe's on Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles in about October of 2012. The store manager at the Pico Blvd. Roscoe's was Lisa H. Plaintiff worked as a shift leader under Lisa H. for about 8 months during which time he alleges he was harassed based upon his race as an African American and based upon sex by another shift leader named Adriana T.

    Further, plaintiff alleges that preferential treatment was given to the Hispanic employees at the restaurant as compared to the African American employees. Plaintiff alleges that Lisa H. would make statements about African Americans to include that they were lazy, always wanted something for nothing, and that they were thieves, etc. In the restaurant it was common for words such as nigger, nigga and mayate (Spanish for nigger) to be used by the kitchen staff and Adriana T.  Plaintiff alleged that Ms. T. would also harass other female servers by rubbing up against them and simulating a grinding sexual motion while behind them, while making sexual noises such as moaning.

    Plaintiff tried to stop the racial and sexual harassment going on in the restaurant, but then Ms. T. started mocking him, purposefully performing offensive sexual acts in front of him, while saying he could not do anything to stop her. Plaintiff regularly complained to Lisa H. about the unlawful discrimination and harassment, but she would do nothing to stop it.

    Plaintiff then went to complain to Howard Foreman, human resource manager, and Herb Hudson, CEO and owner, to complain about racial harassment and discrimination and the sexual harassment going on at the restaurant.

    Nothing was done except that plaintiff was shortly thereafter terminated. Plaintiff Beasley alleged that Lisa H. told him he was terminated because he was causing too many problems with all his complaints, and because he could not get along with Adriana T.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff contends that he was unlawfully harassed because of race and sex; that he was discriminated against because of his race; that he was retaliated against because he complained about race discrimination, race harassment and sexual harassment; that Roscoe's negligently retained Lisa H. and Adriana T. who were unfit for their jobs, which resulted in harm to him. Further, that Roscoe's failed to do everything reasonably necessary to prevent the unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation from occurring.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That plaintiff had not been sexually harassed, as he admitted no such harassment had been directed to him personally and no other employee had complained to management of sexual harassment prior to plaintiff's separation.  Moreover, the allegedly sexual conduct about which plaintiff claimed to have complained was not severe or pervasive throughout the eight-plus months he worked at the Pico restaurant.

    Defendant denied that plaintiff was discriminated against because of his race, noting that the decision-maker, Ms. H., was the person who hired him into the Pico store at a lead-person level and subsequently gave him two raises during his relatively brief tenure at her restaurant.  Defendant contended that there were non-discriminatory reasons for separating plaintiff from the Pico store, including his failure to order sufficient supplies and erratic attendance over busy holiday weekends. 

    Defendant contended that plaintiff was not terminated from the East Coast system, but rather told to contact his former manager at the Manchester restaurant where he had started about getting his former position back, which he declined to do over the following three years.  Defendant denied that plaintiff had personally registered complaints about race discrimination or sexual harassment to either Howard Foreman, then a human resources consultant, or to Herb Hudson.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Plaintiff claimed severe emotional distress caused by the harassment and termination. He was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder - severe, a generalized anxiety disorder, and recurrence of his schizophrenia because of the termination.

    Plaintiff had been diagnosed with schizophrenia prior to working for Roscoe's, but he was stable and not experiencing significant symptoms.

    The harassment he experienced was blamed for recurrence of his schizophrenia. After he was terminated, plaintiff's schizophrenia symptoms returned and he became severely depressed. All this resulted in him losing his apartment and becoming homeless.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $7,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $24,800
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $65,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $65,000

Additional Notes

Per defense counsel: Plaintiff sought over $100,000 in back pay, another $400,000 in "front pay,"  $140,000-150,000 in future medical expenses, $6 million in general damages for emotional distress, and $5 million in punitive damages.    

Disclaimer

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