By: Ty Hyderally, Esq. and Chantal N. Guerriero, Esq.
On November 1, 2019, a Bergen County jury awarded Plaintiff Rebecca McCarthy, (“McCarthy”) a $6 million verdict in her race discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, Care One Management, LLC (“Care One”) in Bound Brook, New Jersey.
McCarthy, an African-American Executive, had recently been promoted by Care One as Vice President of Clinical Leadership when Care One’s Interim Administrator, Alison Fitzpatrick-Durski (“Durski”), approached McCarthy and asked whether McCarthy would consider returning to her previous position as a Clinical Services Consultant. Durski went on to make outrageous and racially discriminatory remarks against McCarthy, including that Durski “[didn’t] want a black person walking around here in a suit as VP” and that rather, Durski wanted McCarthy “in scrubs, flats, and a lab coat.” McCarthy objected to Durski’s racist remarks and was fired by Durski the very next day.
Durski denied making any racially discriminatory comments, and instead categorized her conversation with McCarthy as an advisory one; Durski claimed that she was merely encouraging McCarthy to be more hands on with patients and to change into scrubs when necessary. Durski and Care One further claimed that they fired McCarthy because of her poor job performance, which included failing to supervise staff. However, when put to the test at trial, Care One’s version of the events was wholly rejected by the Bergen County jury.
When the jurors were asked whether McCarthy had proven that it was more likely than not that Care One had engaged in intentional discrimination based on her race, an overwhelming vote of 6-0 in McCarthy’s favor was returned. The jurors went on to award McCarthy $455,350 in lost wages, $1,412,280 in future wages, and $5,000 for McCarthy’s anguish related to the unlawful discrimination.
When asked whether McCarthy had proven “by clear and convincing evidence” that Care One was liable for punitive damages, which may be awarded in order to punish defendants when they have exhibited especially harmful behavior, the jurors again cast a unanimous, affirmative vote of 6-0 and awarded McCarthy a whopping $4.12 million in punitive damages. In total, McCarthy’s award amounts to over $6 million.
In cases like McCarthy’s, where an employer exhibits clear discriminatory animus towards their employee, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), N.J.S.A. 10:5-12, provides an extremely broad scope of protections. Specifically, the LAD prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, sex, pregnancy, breastfeeding, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, familial status, marital status, domestic partnership/civil union status, liability for military service, and in some cases atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information, and age. Any of the aforementioned traits may serve as the basis for wronged New Jersey employees to seek legal aid and obtain just compensation for the unlawful discrimination and/or retaliation done by their employers.
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