What termination of a single employee can justify a $6.6 jury award? (The punitives award was reduced by the lower court from $15.9 million. The employee also received $2.2 million in non-punitive damages). According to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court for western states including California, the following elements justify a lower court jury’s award in this amount:
- Discharge found to be in retaliation for suing for overtime pay, reporting violations to OSHA and Department of Transition, and inciting other employees to file lawsuits.
- Where the decision was made by a high level executive who was at the top of a 7,000-employee district (a “managing agent” under California law).
- The decision was aimed to protect company “culture” because the decision maker felt that supervisors such as the plaintiff has a higher level of responsibility to the company. Seemingly the jury found this to entail greater corporate responsibility.