Monday, June 6, 2011
Jury Awards Plant Manager $5.4 Million for Retaliation
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A U.S. District Court jury has awarded the manager of a local manufacturing plant more than $5.4 million on a claim that he was fired for complaining that his secretary was sexually harassed by the company’s chief executive.
An eight-member jury delivered a unanimous verdict Thursday in Judge Otis Wright’s Los Angeles courtroom, awarding Nghia Tran nearly $418,000 for past and future lost wages, plus $1 million for emotional distress and other non-economic losses, and $4 million in punitive damages.
Victor George, a Torrance attorney representing Tran, said the case took six days to try, followed by about 1.5 days of jury deliberation. George said he will ask for about $1.5 million in attorney fees as well.
Jurors found by special verdict that Isolatek International, a manufacturer of fire retardant construction materials, fired Tran because he complained of the harassment and for no other reason.
George told the MetNews that Tran, who came to America with his family after being airlifted out of Vietnam in 1975, complained directly to CEO/President Gino Pacheco after the June 2009 incident. George said Pacheco groped, kissed, and verbally harassed the 29-year-old secretary, who is married and has four children.
Tran asked Pacheco—who is based in New Jersey—to apologize, which never happened, George said. Pacheco eventually told the company’s personnel department about Tran’s complaint.
An investigation by outside counsel, however, ended with the conclusion that Tran had violated company policy by confronting the alleged harasser, rather than reporting the incident to the personnel department himself. That was a pretext, George said, because the policy permitted complaints to the CEO, and there was no exception in cases where the CEO and the harasser were one and the same person.
Tran was fired in August 2009, two months after the incident, the attorney said.
The defendant’s attorney, Theodora Lee of Littler Mendelson in San Francisco, was unavailable Friday for comment.
The case is Tran v U.S. Mineral Products Corp. CV10-0090 ODW-RZx.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company