A California Superior Court jury recently awarded a city firefighter $6.2 million in a lawsuit claiming race discrimination, sex discrimination, harassment and retaliation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Brenda Lee, who is black and a lesbian, alleged that during her initial job interview in 1992 she was asked whether any member of her family had ever been on welfare. She claimed the discrimination and harassment continued from the time she started her career at the city’s fire academy in 1993.
Even after transferring to different stations, Lee claimed she was subjected to similar conduct. She said she experienced derogatory remarks, unjustified scrutiny of her performance, improper disciplinary action,evaluations and refusal to permit her to return to work under the pretext that she was psychologically unfit.
The jury awarded her $3.5 million for lost wages and benefits, approximately $2.7 million for past and future emotional distress and—subsequent to the initial verdict—$2,500 in punitive damages against a fire department captain.