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Employer’s Failure Earns EEOC Maximum Title VII Damages

Last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed several sexual orientation discrimination cases. While the Supreme Court has yet to address this issue, the EEOC successfully prevailed in its sexual orientation case against Scott Medical Health Center, P.C.

In that case, Dale Massaro asserted that his supervisor at Scott Medical made derogatory comments and slurs to him. This supervisor also asked inappropriate questions about his personal life. Mr. Massaro reported the conduct to the owner and CEO. Scott Medical did not take any action in response to Mr. Massaro’s complaint, instead he was told that the supervisor was “just doing his job.”

The case was not tried but rather default judgment was entered against Scott Medical. However, the company did litigate the damages portion of the case. After hearing from the parties on damages, the court awarded the EEOC back pay and prejudgment interest in the amount of $5,500. Title VII has a statutory limit of $50,000 for compensatory and punitive damages when the employer has less than 101 employees. Thus, the court awarded Mr. Massaro the full $50,000. In awarding the full statutory amount, the court noted that Scott Medical could not assert a “good faith” defense. The company not only failed to take corrective action, but actually ratified the harasser’s conduct by allowing it. These facts were sufficient to show that Scott Medical acted with malice or reckless indifference to Mr. Massaro’s rights.