Yet another multi-million dollar verdict highlights the substantial stakes in retaliation lawsuits. In Donald Bender v. City of Los Angeles, Case No. BC361139 (Nov. 12, 2008), an LAPD officer claimed that he was demoted and kicked out of the department’s canine bomb unit after standing up for the only woman in the unit. The LAPD’s lawyers argued that the plaintiff had improperly stored dangerous equipment, was insubordinate, and had problems getting along with others in the unit. The jury agreed with the officer an awarded him $3.6 million.
The Los Angeles Times reported that another jury last year awarded over $1 million to a female LAPD detective who said she was demoted after complaining that her former boss promoted women in exchange for sexual favors. Ya-May Christle v. City of Los Angeles, Case No. BC351899 (Oct. 3, 2007). In another 2007 case, a police commander received a $650,000 settlement based on allegations that he was denied a promotion after clashing repeatedly with the police chief.
A previous post on this blog described steps employers should take to reduce the risk of liability for retaliation claims, which included (1) preparing job descriptions, (2) preparing performance expectations, (3) preparing regular performance evaluations, and (4) documenting performance problems. If you have not taken these steps, these recent retaliation cases should provide the motivation to do so.