This is the largest jury verdict in an employment case in U.S. history. It also may be the largest male-plaintiff sexual harassment verdict ever rendered in California.
Martinez as to Edison: $300,000,000
Martinez as to SCE: $100,000,000
Page as to Edison: $30,000,000
Page as to SCE: $10,000,000
The deRubertis Law Firm, APC by David M. deRubertis, Beverly Hills.
Perona Langer Beck Serbin Harrison, APC by Brennan Kahn and Todd Harrison, Long Beach
Littler Mendelson, PC by Helene Wasserman, Shannon Boyce and Cassidy Veal, Los Angeles.
Anthony Reading, Ph.D., psychology.
James Rosenberg, M.D., psychiatry.
Susan Bleecker, CPA, economics.
Rob Crandall, economics.
Plaintiffs Alfredo Martinez and Justin Page worked at Southern California Edison’s (SCE) South Bay office. In February 2017, Mr. Page made an anonymous report to the company’s Ethics hotline that a supervisor at South Bay was engaging in sexual and racial harassment and abusing his expense account. Then, in March 2017, Mr. Martinez made two separate reports that women in the South Bay office were being subjected to sexual harassment. SCE delegates investigations of policy violations to the Ethics Department of Edison International.
Edison’s Ethics department investigated, and the investigation confirmed that three planning supervisors engaged in sexual harassment and/or racially inappropriate behavior, so the three supervisors were terminated. SCE and Edison alleged that they took prompt, effective and stern remedial action by terminating the three supervisors.
Plaintiffs alleged retaliation and that SCE/Edison tried to contain and cover up the extent of the problems failing to prevent retaliation. Plaintiff Page also alleged he was sexually harassed.
According to plaintiffs, the investigation also revealed that – in addition to the three supervisors – others members of their “clique” at South Bay had also participated in the harassing conduct, yet no investigation was conducted into these individuals or their participation. Plaintiffs allege that SCE and Edison went into “containment and coverup” mode with the purpose of messaging that the entire problem was caused by the three supervisors and SCE/Edison fixed the problem by terminating them. According to plaintiffs, while the three supervisors were certainly the “ring leaders” in creating a hostile work environment at South Bay, their conduct was actually part and parcel of more systemic, broader corporate culture problems within SCE, and that Edison had allowed this type of conduct to fester for years unabated. Indeed, according to Plaintiffs, SCE/Edison had serially failed to investigate and remedy allegations of sexual and/or racial misconduct at least within South Bay, and potentially throughout the company.
Thus, plaintiffs alleged, if SCE/Edison actually conducted a full investigation into all of the issues at South Bay, it would have revealed that the problems were not limited to these three supervisors, but was systemic and widespread. During and after the initial sexual and racial harassment investigation, Mr. Page reported additional allegations including eventually reporting that he, too, was subjected to sexual harassment both by the male supervisors and also a female South Bay employee. Also, during and after the initial sexual and racial harassment investigation, Mr. Page and others reported to SCE/Edison that the three supervisors and their “clique” were threatening and planning to retaliate against those who reported the issues in the first place.
According to plaintiffs, SCE and Edison ignored and did not investigate or remedy any of this threatened retaliation. However, Edison did investigate certain allegations of retaliation made by South Bay employee Ms. Olivares. According to plaintiffs, the initial investigation report submitted to Edison’s Director of Ethics confirmed that a member of the “clique” physically assaulted (shoulder bumping in hallways) Ms. Olivares, admittedly because the member of the “clique” was angry and believed Ms. Olivares had reported the supervisors. However, evidence at trial revealed that Edison’s Director of Ethics changed this report to sanitize the evidence concluding that the physical assault could not be substantiated. Plaintiffs alleged this was more evidence of the high-level decision within SCE and Edison’s senior levels of management to “contain and cover up” the extent of the problem.
Around this same time, Mr. Page reported that the female who was personally sexually harassing him at times had been video recorded masturbating in one of the supervisors’ offices and that the supervisor showed Mr. Page this video. The same Director of Ethics wrote a report concluding that these allegations could not be substantiated, although one of the other witnesses interviewed confirmed with 100% certainty that the video depicted what Mr. Page alleged. Plaintiffs alleged this was all part of the “containment and coverup” that was done by Edison’s Ethics Department and sanctioned and endorsed by the most senior levels of management. Indeed, evidence at trial revealed that the CEOs of both SCE and Edison were briefed and aware of these serious investigations.
Eventually, Mr. Page began to suffer a mental breakdown, fearing the retaliation that had been threatened would occur and seeing that SCE/Edison was not doing anything to prevent the retaliation. Mr. Page transferred out of South Bay and to SCE’s Fullerton office, which was closer to his home. On his first day reporting to Fullerton, the female member of the “clique” whom Mr. Page alleged had sexually harassed him was at the Fullerton office interviewing for a job. She made a remark to Mr. Page questioning whether he told the bosses at Fullerton anything about her and ended the remark with words to the effect of “I would have had to kill you if you did.” SCE/Edison alleged this was just a simple joke not intended at all as a threat. After this event, Mr. Page left work and went on a leave of absence from which he never returned.
As to Mr. Martinez, from mid-February 2017 through April 2017, seven different complaints were made against Mr. Martinez from various individuals alleging various misconduct. Ultimately, Edison’s Ethics Department investigated some of these complaints. Some of the complaints alleged that Mr. Martinez had improperly allowed a friend who was severely beaten in a bar fight (sustaining a traumatic brain injury) to remain on payroll and do some work from home rather than go out on a disability leave as should have been done. SCE/Edison alleged that Mr. Martinez was at the bar the night of the fight, felt guilty that his friend had been beaten and wanted to help take care of his friend. Thus, according to SCE/Edison, in violation of company policy acting on his own without authorization of management, Mr. Martinez worked out this improper arrangement to make sure his friend continued to get paid. SCE/Edison alleged that Mr. Martinez admitted the violation when interviewed; the interview notes stated that Mr. Martinez essentially confessed that he did this on his own without involving or getting approval of upper management. Mr. Martinez alleged that this entire arrangement was approved by his boss, District Manager Paul Hennessy. Hennessy denied knowing of or approving the arrangement. Ultimately, Edison’s investigation concluded that Mr. Martinez violated multiple policies and it was determined that he would be terminated. Hearing this, Mr. Martinez resigned to avoid termination. Because he was recommended for termination, after his separation, SCE/Edison banned Mr. Martinez from returning onto Edison/SCE property, which necessarily limited his employment opportunities with SCE/Edison contractors in the future. Mr. Martinez alleged this blacklisting was an additional post-termination adverse employment action because it limited his opportunity for overtime with his later employer, an SCE contractor. Mr. Martinez presented claims for retaliation and failure to prevent retaliation. Mr. Page presented claims for retaliation, sexual harassment and failure to prevent retaliation and harassment.
SCE/Edison contended that they promptly investigated and terminated the three supervisors and demoted District Manager Hennessy. They alleged Page was not harassed; he fabricated his allegations of harassment when he was really friends with an alleged harasser. They alleged Page was not terminated, or subjected to any adverse action. They alleged Martinez admitted violations of policy that justified his firing and that the investigation into his firing was conducted by neutral third parties with no intent to retaliate.
SCE/Edison also revealed impeachment evidence that showed that, contrary to his claim of being sexually harassed by his supervisor for two years, Mr. Page actually had an ongoing friendship with the supervisor. This evidence included that they shared Ducks hockey season tickets together, and even attended games together with their young children. This evidence included text messages showing a seemingly very close friendship between the two. And this evidence included sexually graphic messages sent by Mr. Page to this supervisor. SCE/Edison also alleged that Mr. Page’s allegations changed with times and were totally inconsistent. They pointed to evidence of Mr. Page’s alleged contemporaneous journals of events in the workplace that differed materially from Mr. Page’s testimony about certain events and/or his statements to medical doctors or therapists. SCE/Edison’s forensic psychiatrist James Rosenberg, M.D. evaluated Mr. Page and diagnosed him with malingering.
Martinez worked for the company for 16 years. After his separation from SCE, Mr. Martinez obtained another job within about 60 days and made more money at his subsequent employment than he made at SCE. His last full year at SCE he made around $300,000 but at his new place of employment he made around $350,000. However, Mr. Martinez alleged that because of the blacklisting, he was deprived of the ability to work more overtime at his new place of employment. He typically worked around 20 hours of overtime per week, but claimed others at his workplace who were not subject to the ban on returning to SCE/Edison property earned as much as 40-60 hours of overtime per week. Mr. Martinez was also diagnosed with a major depressive disorder.
Mr. Page was diagnosed for years by a series of treating health care providers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, plaintiff’s forensic psychologist Anthony Reading, Ph.D. disagreed with the PTSD diagnosis and instead diagnosed an adjustment disorder with depression. Mr. Page has been unemployed and has not sought other work since leaving SCE/Edison’s workplace in 2017. While his treating doctors suggested he may never work again, Dr. Reading’s testimony was that within a couple of years with proper care he should be able to return to work.