From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...
The Missouri Department of Corrections must pay a woman nearly $2 million after a state appeals court upheld a jury’s finding that she was subjected to sex discrimination and retaliation while working at two of the department’s facilities ( Hesse v. Mo. Dep’t of Corr. , 2017 BL 328968, Mo. Ct. App. W.D., No. WD79809, 9/19/17 ).
The jury had found that Debra Hesse was subjected to gender harassment and retaliation while working at Tipton Correctional Center and Kansas City Reentry Center. The harassment included being told that female corrections officers shouldn’t work in a facility for male prisoners, Hesse’s attorney, Martin M. Meyers, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 20.
Hesse was also directed to take out the trash because of her sex, he said.
Several witnesses testified at trial that male sergeants and lieutenants regularly remarked that “women don’t belong in male prisons,” Meyers said. The comments were made in an apparent attempt to drive Hesse from her job, he said. Meyers is with The Meyers Law Firm L.C. in Kansas City, Mo.
None of MDOC’s challenges to the trial judge’s handling of the case warranted overturning the trial court’s judgment in favor of Hesse, the Missouri Court of Appeals said Sept. 19. Hesse was awarded $500,000 in compensatory damages, $1 million in punitive damages, $463,324 in attorneys’ fees, and $6,558 in other expenses and court costs.
MDOC pointed to alleged errors in the verdict form the jurors used and in the admittance of “me too” testimony from another female employee who allegedly experienced similar mistreatment. But the department didn’t show how the use of a single verdict form for both the harassment and the retaliation claims confused or misled the jury, and it in fact may have benefited MDOC, the appeals court said.
The joint form prevented the jury from making overlapping or duplicative damages awards on Hesse’s harassment and retaliation claims, it said.
Allowing Tina Gallegos to testify during Hesse’s trial wasn’t an abuse of discretion by the trial judge, because the testimony corroborated Hesse’s contention that MDOC failed to enforce its workplace anti-discrimination policy, Judge Anthony Rex Gabbert said for the appeals court.
Hesse and Gallegos worked at the same facility and were supervised by some of the same superior officers, Gabbert said They also experienced similar gender-based harassment, tried to complain pursuant to the department’s anti-discrimination policy, and had their complaints dismissed out of hand, he said.
That made Gallegos’ testimony relevant to Hesse’s job bias claims, the court said.
The appeals court also rejected MDOC’s arguments regarding the trial judge’s awards of attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses to Hesse.
“We’re pleased that the court affirmed the judgment in favor of our client and hopeful that the size of the verdict will spur the department to take long overdue” measures to correct the hostile work environment for female prison workers, Meyers said. He noted that most of the facilities in Missouri are men’s prisons.
The Missouri attorney general’s office, which represented MDOC, didn’t respond Sept. 20 to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment.
Judges Mark D. Pfeiffer and Karen King Mitchell joined the opinion.
To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at firstname.lastname@example.org
Text of the opinion is available at http://bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Hesse_v_Mo_Dept_of_Corr_No_DOCKET_NUMBER_WD79809_2017_BL_328968_M?doc_id=X1L43BVL0000N.
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)