Legal news and tips for employees, by Law Office of Eugene Lee

Longshorewoman Wins $1.2 Million Jury Award for Retaliation

Fellow attorney Tony Luti reports a $1.2 million award to a longshorewoman in a retaliation lawsuit against her employer, Pacific Maritime Association. Plaintiff Catherine McCoy was a third generation dockworker who had worked the waterfront for 18 years. She and five other African-American women had filed a lawsuit against employer Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) in 1998. They settled out of court in 2003 with PMA agreeing to pay money to and train the women for a position as “vessel planners”. That should’ve been the end of it. But of course ,it wasn’t.

The settlement agreement was supposed to be confidential, but in 2003, PMA decided to tell McCoy’s supervisors the reason why she would be receiving the training was because she had sued PMA. Word spread and things turned very hostile very quickly for McCoy. McCoy’s managers began documenting all of McCoy’s training because of her “litigious history”. McCoy was “hard-timed” throughout the training. McCoy eventually suffered a breakdown in 2004. When McCoy filed a grievance, PMA held the grievance arbitration in McCoy’s absence while she was still out on stress-induced disability leave. With McCoy absent, the arbitration found McCoy’s grievance to be frivolous. McCoy was told she would not be allowed to return to work until she took a diversity class and signed a statement promising to never file another grievance again. Not surprisingly, McCoy decided not to return to work and has been out of work since. To add insult to injury, none of the women who were supposed to get the training got it.

The case went before a Los Angeles Superior Court jury consisting of 5 men (one African-American) and 7 women. After 3 weeks of trial, including 4 days of jury deliberation, the jury voted 11-1 in favor of plaintiff and 9-3 on the verdict amounts, finding that McCoy had been retaliated against for filing her initial discrimination complaint. The verdict breakdown was as follows:

– $660,000 economic damages

– $540,000 emotional distress

Judge Jane Johnson presided over the suit. Counsel for the defense was Clifford Sethness of law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius.

With the trial over, McCoy will now proceed with a motion requesting attorney fees and contend with the usual post-trial motions and appeals by defendants.

After more than 10 years of suffering, Catherine McCoy has finally achieved justice. Congratulations to Mr. Luti for helping to make that happen.


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