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$1 Million Jury Verdict Against Ohio Judge For Religious Discrimination

Magistrate Kimberly Edelstein sued Judge Greg Stephens, alleging he fired her because she is Jewish. Edelstein worked for Stephens beginning in early 2016. At the end of July 2016, Edelstein said she told Stephens that she would need eight days off in October to observe the Jewish high holy days. Edelstein alleges Stephens was angry and reacted by yelling, "Holy cow, eight days." Stephens fired Edelstein four days later. At the trial, Edelstein also alleged that two members of Stephen's staff mocked her and made fun of her religion. Edelstein stated she could not find a new position because other public officials were trying to beat her down and make it difficult for her.

Stephens claimed he fired Edelstein because of internal strife between her and his personal staff, saying she offended and embarrassed other staff members. He said this strife created a negative and disruptive work environment. Stephens also asserted he did not fire Edelstein for being Jewish and said he replaced her with another Jewish magistrate. Edelstein responded that Stephens manufactured these allegations of strife after she accused him of discriminating against her. Approximately three years ago, a U.S. magistrate judge issued a 75-page recommendation recommending that a jury hear the discrimination allegations against Stephens. The short time between the request and termination would allow a reasonable jury to find discrimination.

The jury awarded Edelstein $835,000 in back pay, $250,000 in compensatory damages, and $35,000 in punitive damages. Edelstein represented herself and referred to herself as a "fundamentalist Jew among three fundamentalist Christians." Stephen's attorney stated the judge is considering options as the evidence did not support the verdict.