News & Insights

Jury in Eastern District of Michigan Awards Plaintiff $16.8 Million in Employment Lawsuit

April 3, 2018

On March 28, 2018, a federal jury in the Eastern District of Michigan reached a verdict in an employment lawsuit involving hostile work environment and retaliation claims on the basis of race and national origin. The jury, pulled from citizens living within a 100-mile radius of the courthouse, found that the employer was liable, finding that the employee was exposed to a “hostile work environment” and that he was retaliated against for opposing unlawful discrimination.

The jury awarded the plaintiff $1.7 million in back pay, $100,000 in emotional distress damages and $15,000,000 in punitive damages against the employer. (Kerr Russell had no involvement in this case.)

This is a painful example of how juries may be likely to react in the post “me too” era. Kerr Russell has seen a significant rise in the number of harassment claims against its clients which is consistent with the experience of employers across the country. “Employees are not afraid to speak up about perceived acts of harassment by coworkers, managers and customers and juries are not afraid to punish employers who do not react properly in response to employee complaints,” explained Mark Knoth, employment and labor practice group leader at Kerr Russell.

Knoth explained that “the most vulnerable employers are those with ineffective policies in place and those with a management staff that is untrained on how to properly respond to events which occur in the workplace”.

Kerr Russell recommends that all employers review and update their policies as needed, assess the sufficiency of training provided and determine if they have purchased a good policy of employment practices liability insurance (“EPLI”) to ensure that insurance coverage is adequate and that the EPLI policy allows them to choose their own legal counsel.


About Mark Knoth ...

Mark C. Knoth has over 20 years of experience representing employers in a wide range of employment and labor law matters.  Mark chairs the firm’s Labor, Employment, Employee Benefits & ERISA Practice Group.

On a daily basis, Mark counsels and advises business owners, managers and human resources professionals on workplace issues including civil rights and anti-discrimination laws; employee discipline; wage and hour; overtime; employee leaves; reasonable accommodations; veterans issues; picketing; secondary boycotts;  reductions in force; drug testing; unemployment compensation; affirmative action; and union organizing campaigns, among other matters. He additionally drafts employee policies, handbooks, contracts, and covenants not to compete, and investigates threats of violence, allegations of harassment, and other employee misconduct.

Mark has successfully represented employers in hearings, trials, and appeals in federal and state courts on a variety of employment law claims including, race, sex and national origin cases alleging discrimination, retaliation and harassment under Title VII; disability and failure to accommodate claims under the ADA; age discrimination claims under the ADEA; retaliation and failure to reinstate claims under the FMLA; claims alleging failure to pay wages and overtime under the FLSA; employee benefit claims under ERISA; breach of covenants not to compete claims; wrongful termination claims and numerous other State and Federal claims.  A number of cases Mark has successfully handled have become published cases.  Mark represents employers in investigations conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the Michigan and US Departments of Labor, and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.  As a special mediator for the EEOC, Mark facilitates the resolution of charges of discrimination brought against employers. 

Mark’s broad range of experience also includes traditional labor relations matters such as negotiating collective bargaining agreements, trying discharge and contract interpretation grievances in labor arbitration and he appears before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Michigan Employment Relations Commission at unit clarification hearings and union certification elections, and unfair labor practice proceedings

Mark frequently speaks to employer groups, and trains human resources managers on a variety of employment related legal topics. He also writes on subjects related to his practice and is a contributing editor to a nationally recognized publication. Mark is conversational in German.

Mark was named to The Best Lawyers in America®, by Woodward/White, Inc. in the area of management side employment law. He also has been awarded and maintains the Martindale-Hubbell AV rating, reflecting preeminence in his legal ability and ethical standards. Mark has also received an Excellent rating through Avvo.com.  Mark was also selected by dBusiness Magazine as one of Detroit's Top Lawyers in Metro Detroit for Labor and Employment Law for 2015. Email Mark.

About Katherine Cser ...

Katherine F. Cser focuses her practice on labor and employment issues. She counsels and advises business owners, managers and human resources professionals on workplace issues including discrimination, retaliation, wage and hour laws, medical leave laws, among other concerns.

She has also practiced as a commercial litigator on a wide variety of commercial disputes in federal and state courts and arbitral proceedings.  Katherine has experience in commercial transactions litigation, as well as restrictive covenants and intellectual property and related tort claims.

Before joining Kerr Russell, Katherine was an attorney in the New York City office of a national law firm.  In 2014 and 2015, she was named to the New York Metro Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars list.  In 2016 and 2017, Katherine was named to the Michigan Super Lawyers' Rising Stars list.   Email Katherine.


About Kerr Russell ...

We are proud of Detroit. We are proud to have had a seat at the table here since 1874.

Our exceptional attorneys understand the unique challenges facing business leaders. Our legal solutions are prompt, accurate, economical, and focused around your needs in every area, including business law, labor and employment, immigration, mergers and acquisitions, real estate and construction, healthcare, medical practices, tax, contract negotiation, restructuring, automotive, manufacturing, and commercial litigation.

Whereas many lawyers merely interpret the law, our attorneys help to make it. We have been involved in some of the most significant legal developments in state business and health care law, and our trial lawyers have been involved in many notable commercial cases in Michigan and other jurisdictions.

In business and legal circles, we are respected for our high standards, quality work, and professional ethics and integrity.

For over 140 years, Detroit has been our home. Detroit will always be our home.

 

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