A federal district court judge recently awarded $15.6 million to a former American Airlines employee who claimed a co-worker harassed her. Jamie Abrams alleged that she had received numerous “malicious, obscene, harassing, threatening and interfering phone calls” of a violent and sexual nature, occurring several times daily.
According to Abrams, American Airlines clerk Tim White had access to her contact information through the company’s computer system and was using it to stalk her. White had previously admitted to the FBI, between 2001 and his arrest in 2003, he repeatedly placed threatening phone calls and stalked Abrams.
Judge Terry Means of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ordered White to pay Abrams $10 million in punitive damages, $5 million for pain and suffering, and $600,000 for past and future wage losses. However, the judge dismissed her claims against the airline of sexual harassment and fostering a hostile work environment.
Final note: Employers can’t afford to ignore threats—promptly investigate each claim. If, as here, it appears that company systems have been used to facilitate stalking, the sky may be the limit on awards.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Stable job history is a legitimate hiring criterion
- Beware ill-chosen words, which--all by themselves--can sometimes launch lawsuits
- Follow 3 rules of pre-hire medical tests: Timing, privacy, job descriptions
- Gauge what a person confronts, not overcomes, to see if he's 'disabled'