Phillips & Associates has established itself as one of New York City’s top employment discrimination law firms, with an exclusive focus on employee representation. Our attorneys have obtained more than $110 million in verdicts and settlements. Many of them have received recognition from their peers as leaders in the field of employment law. The legal publication TopVerdict recently recognized three of our attorneys for a jury verdict of $2.31 million in an employment discrimination lawsuit. Marjorie Mesidor, Brittany A. Stevens, and Nicole A. Welch represented a former employee of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) in a case that alleged hostile work environment based on race and national origin. TopVerdict included the case in its “Top 100 Verdicts in New York” list for 2018.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against employees and job applicants on the basis of race and national origin, among other factors. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). Multiple court rulings have established that an employer commits an unlawful employment practice when they create a hostile work environment based on a protected category. While a hostile work environment is probably most familiar in the context of sexual harassment, it can also occur when an unwelcome and pervasive pattern of harassment is directed at a person’s race, color, religion, or national origin.
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 offers further protection against discrimination on the basis of race. It guarantees the right of all persons in the U.S., regardless of race, “to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property.” Id. at § 1981. Unlike Title VII, this statute allows plaintiffs to recover punitive damages if they can establish that a defendant acted “with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of an aggrieved individual.” Id. at § 1981a(b)(1).
TopVerdict is an online publication based in New York City. It compiles and publishes lists of the largest verdicts from jury and bench trials in multiple jurisdictions. The lists recognize the law firms and individual attorneys who represented the successful plaintiffs at trial. Phillips & Associates’ verdict places 65th out of 100 in TopVerdict’s 2018 list for New York.
The lawsuit involved claims for race and national origin discrimination under Title VII and § 1981, and for retaliation under § 1981. The plaintiff, a Black man of West Indian descent, was employed by the PANYNJ at LaGuardia Airport. He “was an exemplary employee,” but began experiencing harassment from a supervisor when he sought a promotion. A pattern of hostile behavior by that supervisor followed and persisted on a daily basis for over a year until the plaintiff resigned.
We filed suit in 2015 against the PANYNJ and the supervisor. The case went to trial in September 2018. After six days of trial, the jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding in the plaintiff’s favor on all questions. It held the two defendants liable for $2.16 million in compensatory damages and held the supervisor solely liable for $150,000 in punitive damages.
The experienced and skilled employment lawyers at Phillips & Associates advocate for the rights of workers in New York City, helping them assert claims for discrimination and other unlawful workplace practices. Please contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you.