Former Edison employees win $460 million sexual harassment and retaliation verdict

A Los Angeles jury on Thursday awarded $440 million in punitive damages to two men who claimed they were forced out of their jobs at Southern California Edison after complaining of repeated sexual and racial harassment at an office in South Bay, lawyers said.

The decision came after jurors on Wednesday awarded $24.6 million in compensatory damages to plaintiffs Alfredo Martinez and Justin Page, bringing the combined verdict to more than $464.6 million, said David deRubertis, the l one of the lawyers representing the men.

Martinez alleged that after 16 years with Edison, he was forced out of his supervisory position in April 2017 by constructive dismissal – a complaint accusing the employer of creating or allowing intolerable working conditions in order to expel a worker — after reporting widespread sexual harassment. and racist language.

During the eight-week trial, attorneys for Martinez and Page presented evidence they said showed Edison’s South Bay office had a culture of brotherhood in which racial and sexual harassment was widespread, common and sometimes swept under the rug.

“These two men had the courage to stand up and report the harassment,” DeRubertis said in a statement. “SCE and Edison’s response was to pretend the problem was limited to a handful of bad actors, ignoring the culture of tolerance for harassment and discrimination that developed in the South Bay office.”

DeRubertis said Edison management did not take the harassment seriously. “We are extremely grateful that the jury saw through this deception,” he added.

The jury award was unusual in that the $440 million in punitive damages exceeded the amount DeRubertis suggested to the jury by $140 million. The jury awarded $400 million in punitive damages to Martinez — $100 million from Southern California Edison and $300 million from parent company Edison International. Page was awarded $40 million in punitive damages – $10 million from SCE and $30 million from Edison International.

The $22.37 million in compensatory damages for Martinez is considered one of the largest of its kind for a Fair Employment and Housing Act case in California history.

Edison officials said they would seek a new trial to overturn the verdict.

“The jury’s decision does not conform to the facts and the law and does not reflect who we are or what we stand for, and we intend to challenge the decision and seek a new trial,” the court said. SCE spokesperson, Diane Castro.

In an essay brief, Edison’s legal team argued that the pair tried to exploit “the plight of their former female colleagues to create liability where there was none”. Edison acknowledged in court papers that Martinez and Page reported that supervisors “where they worked engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct toward female employees.”

But Martinez, according to Edison’s attorneys, “violated several SCE policies when he falsified the time slips of an employee who reported to him.” In the trial brief, they noted that Page, while reporting harassment of female co-workers, did not say he was also a victim until later.

Martinez’s attorneys allege that in the roughly 30 days after he reported the harassment, six retaliatory complaints were filed against him. His lawyers allege Edison conducted a bogus investigation and used the complaints to pressure him into quitting his job.

In court filings, Page alleged that after reporting the harassment anonymously, he was subjected to threats of retaliation. Page, who started working for Edison in 2015, was transferred from South Bay to an office in Fullerton, but threats followed him there and he went on leave from which he did not return. according to court documents.

Los Angeles Times

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