Physician Outsourcing Group Fired Employees for Reporting Sexually Charged Environment, Jury Found
DALLAS - A Dallas federal court jury, on Friday, October 24, 2014, returned a verdict awarding almost half a million dollars to three former employees in a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against EmCare, a provider of physician services, the federal agency announced.
The jury of two women and four men awarded former Executive Assistant Gloria Stokes $250,000 in punitive damages based on the claim that she was sexually harassed by her supervisor, the division CEO, Jim McKinney. Stokes, who filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC, also individually intervened in the Commission's lawsuit and was personally represented by Laura Hallmon of Fielding, Parker & Hallmon LLP. The case was tried before U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis.
The EEOC also sought relief for Bonnie Shaw, an EmCare credentialer, and Luke Trahan, a recruiter, based on retaliatory discharge. The jury awarded Shaw and Trahan $82,000 and $167,000, respectively, to compensate them for lost wages and benefits as a result of having been fired for reporting and opposing a sexually hostile work environment within the AnesthesiaCare Division of EmCare.
The jury verdict followed five days of trial, including the presentation of evidence by the EEOC about constant lewd sexual comments and behavior of former AnesthesiaCare CEO Jim McKinney, as well as several other management-level employees in that Division. Stokes, Shaw and Trahan all testified about the lack of an appropriate response by Human Resources to their complaints about the misconduct. Shaw and Trahan testified about jointly reporting to human resources that McKinney made an inappropriate remark to Shaw's then-15-year-old daughter at a "Bring Your Child to Work Day" event. Shaw and Trahan were both fired, within an hour of each other, just six weeks later for reasons the company alleged were performance issues.
Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 3:11-CV-02017-P) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
"Ms. Stokes, Ms. Shaw, and Mr. Trahan spent their time at EmCare working diligently to do their jobs well despite the pervasive sexual environment that human resources allowed Jim McKinney to create and perpetuate," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Meaghan Shepard. "Their complaints were ignored, and instead of getting support from HR, Ms. Shaw and Mr. Trahan were fired for daring to speak out against the division CEO. By today's verdict, it is clear that all three have finally been heard."
EEOC General Counsel David Lopez added, "The EEOC stands ready to take cases to the people through the courthouse, and to shine light on these stories of discrimination and retaliation whenever early administrative resolutions cannot be reached. It is particularly important for us to act to protect employees who have risked their jobs simply because they have stepped up to challenge discrimination in the workplace."
Janet Elizondo, director of the EEOC's Dallas District Office, said, "I am very pleased with the excellent work of our investigative staff in preparing the case that led to this great result. Retired EEOC Investigator Norma Warner returned to provide rebuttal testimony that I'm sure was critical in helping this jury reach its decision."
EmCare has more than 750 practices serving nearly 600 hospitals, hospital systems and other healthcare facilities nationwide.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at www.eeoc.gov.