Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The dark side of discrimination litigation

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a jury awarded a former applicant for a job a Lucasfilm $113,800 in damages on a pregnancy discrimination claim. The jury concluded that the media company withdrew its job offer to Julie Veronese after she disclosed her pregnancy.

This case proves two important points about discrimination litigation:

1. The smoking-gun piece of evidence in the case was an email Veronese's supervisor-to-be in which she expressed concern about Veronese's ability to do the job while pregnant. This case illustrates the dangers of email and proves the point that if you should not put in an email what you do not want shown to a jury or published in the newspaper.

2. Veronese's attorney is reported as saying that she will seek $1.2 million in attorney's fees from Lucasfilm. While the number is stagging, what is more staggering is that one can collect ten-fold in attorney's fees than what she recovered as damages in the actual litigation. Many claims carry risk for damages, and a six-figure verdict is nothing to sneeze at. The real risk in many discrimination lawsuits, however, is the attorney's fees that a successful plaintiff can recover. The risk of a fee award must play into the exposure calculus in strategizing the defense of any discrimination claim. Failing to take both the likelihood of a fee award and the potential amount of that award into account very early on in litigation could lead to an expensive surprise at the end of the case.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.