Insurer AAA fires employee who complained of harassment by supervisor. $360K arb award plus $504,783.47 in attorneys fees and $24,175.97 in costs.

Summary

Employee of 22 years complains of harassment followed by retaliatory termination.

The Case

  • Case Name: Keene v. American Automobile Association of Northern California, Nevada And Utah ("AAA")
  • Court and Case Number: JAMS Arbitration 1100107060
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, September 21, 2020
  • Date of Arbitration Award : Monday, September 21, 2020
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, August 13, 2019
  • Type of Action: Employment, Highlighted Verdicts
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Zela G. Claiborne
  • Plaintiffs:
    Tamala Keene
  • Defendants:
    The American Automobile Association of Northern California, Nevada And Utah
  • Type of Result: Arbitration Award

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $360,287.75
  • Economic Damages:

    Past wages and benefits of $160,525 plus prejudgment interest of $11,236.75.

    Future lost wages for six months of $38,526;

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $150,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: July 14-17, 2020

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Makarem & Associates by Deborah P. Gutierrez, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    SV Employment Law Firm PC by Steven L. Friedlander, San Mateo.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Claimant filed causes of action for disability discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination against American Automobile Association of Northern California, Nevada And Utah (“AAA”) after AAA terminated her 22-year employment with the company.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Claimant alleged that she complained about her supervisor's severe and pervasive harassment, including his disparagement of racial minorities, women, and older employees. In response to claimant's complaints to Human Resources, claimant's supervisor retaliated against her by escalating his harassment and creating a hostile work environment.

    Further, that claimant was harassed by her supervisor for approximately 1 year, beginning July 2017 through September 2018. 

    That AAA was aware of the supervisor's harassment and failed to protect her from the supervisor's abusive conduct. When the supervisor's harassment got to the point of causing claimant debilitating panic attacks and chronic depression, she sought disability leave and relocation to a vacant position at another AAA branch as a reasonable accommodation.

    Although AAA had vacant positions available to relocate claimant, AAA failed to provide claimant with reasonable accommodation. AAA also failed to investigate claimant’s and other employees' complaints against the supervisor and retaliated against claimant by terminating her 22-year employment with the company.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Plaintiff did not have an FEHA-recognized disability and that, because plaintiff's doctor had deemed her to be "totally disabled," defendant was not required to provide relocation as a reasonable accommodation.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Emotional distress.

  • Past and future economic losses.

Additional Notes

Claimant's counsel, as the prevailing party, was awarded $504,783.47 in attorneys fees and $24,175.97 in costs.

Per respondent's counsel:

Respondent does not agree with claimant’s characterizations and on October 14, 2020 filed a Petition to Vacate in Superior Court with respect to this matter.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

© Copyright 2020 by Neubauer & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. www.juryverdictalert.com