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Damages in an employment case

Punitive damages awarded to an employee whose employer failed to fully investigate an employee’s claim of relentless sexual harassment

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently affirmed a jury’s award of $500,000 in punitive damages to a woman who was the subject of relentless sexual harassment at work. The employee was fired due to her allegedly poor relationship with co-workers. At the termination meeting, the employee told the managers that she had been subjected to constant sexual harassment by her colleagues, including her supervisor.

The Court agreed that the employer failed to adequately investigate and address her claims of sexual harassment by her supervisor. The facts were lurid, but the employer’s investigator admitted that he did not believe the employee in the first place. The investigator never bothered to interview the employee or her peers to determine what happened. Evidence showed that an office manager circulated a memo about the supervisor’s horrible behavior. The general manager laughed when he read the memo and ignored it.

Punitive damages are available where the employer and its investigator negatively pre-judge an employee’s complaint of harassment and fais to comply with the legal duty to fully investigate claims of sexual harassment.

The decision is reported as Gyulkian v. Lexus of Watertown.  

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


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