Mass SJC: Failure to Adequately Investigate Sexual Harassment has Consequences - Hundreds of Thousands of Them
Talk about sending a message! Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court just reinstated a $540,000 jury verdict in favor of a finance manager at a Lexus dealer who alleged that her supervisor sexually harassed her and that the dealer then failed to sufficiently investigate her claims. (Slip opinion here.)
At trial, Emma Gyulakian alleged a litany of offenses conducted by her supervisor, Emmanuel Ferreira.1 The jury found for her on her sexually hostile or offensive work environment claim and awarded $40,000 in compensatory damages and a whopping $500,000 in punitives. Lexus of Watertown then filed a Motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (jnov) on the punitives award, which the trial court granted, concluding that an employer may not be vicariously liable for punitive damages under Massachusetts law based purely on the actions of its supervisory personnel, and that Gyulakian did not provide the jury with sufficient evidence of outrageous or egregious behavior by Lexus.