The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination hit Office Max with $300,000 in emotional distress damages in a recent retaliation case. Office Max claimed that the Complainant, a 13 year employee of Office Max, was terminated due to insufficient sales numbers and poor ability to work as a team member. The Complainant, however, claimed her termination was in retaliation for her complaints regarding gender discrimination. Specifically, she alleged that she reported that she was paid less than her male counterparts, excluded from meetings with executives and male-only social events, and ultimately terminated. Because the MCAD credited her testimony in that regard, it concluded that Complainant was the victim of retaliation.
In addition, the MCAD awarded the Complainant, who was in her 60s and claimed to be 5 years away from retirement, $666,000 in front pay. This serves as a reminder that although uncommon, employers may be subject to liability for front pay damages, especially as the terminated employee nears retirement age.
This decision underscores the potential for tremendous damage awards, even when an employer attempts to set forth a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for termination. Thus, the importance of proper documentation cannot be overstressed. It is also important to implement the correct preventative techniques to create a non-discriminatory workplace. However, sometimes litigation is unavoidable. But there are strategies that can be employed to help minimize emotional distress damages, such as independent psychiatric examinations.
To ensure that your company is taking proper steps to prevent liability and minimize damages, contact any of the attorneys at Royal LLP at (413) 586-2288.