Pennsylvania Woman Wins $20.5 Million Settlement for Deliberate Discrimination in Workplace

Pennsylvania Woman Wins $20.5 Million Settlement for Deliberate Discrimination in Workplace

WILLIAMSPORT— A federal jury in New Jersey gave a woman $20.5 million in damages because they found she was intentionally biased against at work in State College for a company that provides home medical care.

Judges in the U.S. Middle District Court ruled Wednesday that Patricia Holmes, who is black, should get $500,000 in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages.

The person who used to live in Pennsylvania and now lives in New Brunswick sued American HomePatient, a Lincare company, for civil rights violations in 2021.

The jury decided that Holmes was treated badly at work because of her race, which is against federal law.

On the verdict form, they said that their decision was based on how center boss Timothy McCoy and coworker Beverly Hibbert had acted.

The jury also found:

The American HomePatient company did not take reasonable steps to stop or fix the racial harassment at work.
What American HomePatient did to Holmes was either mean or showed a careless disregard for her federally protected rights.
The company hadn’t really tried to follow the federal law that says it’s illegal to treat people differently because of their race.
From October 2019 until July 14, 2020, Holmes worked as a customer service worker at the company’s center in State College. She quit on July 14, 2020, which she called a “constructive discharge.”

Holmes was the only Black worker at the center, and evidence at his trial showed that he was treated badly. He was called the “N” word, made references to the Ku Klux Klan, and called a “coonie.”

“As soon as Ms. Holmes told me about this behavior, I thought it was completely unacceptable,” said Thomas B. Anderson, the lawyer in Pittsburgh who defended her.

“This kind of behavior is not acceptable anywhere, but maybe even more so at work.”

When American HomePatient (AHOM) heard the decision, they said:

AHOM doesn’t agree with the decision at all, especially not with the amount and award of punitive damages, which are 40 times the amount of compensatory damages.

The 14th Amendment doesn’t allow this kind of reward. For the most part, federal judges have said that the multiple for punitive damages shouldn’t be more than ten units.

Before the trial, Judge Matthew W. Brann ruled in favor of AHOM on Holmes’ claims of revenge and constructive discharge.

During the trial, it was said that McCoy and Hilbert used racial slurs and other offensive language with Holmes.

One was McCoy, who said it was funny to see “a black person with a white hood over their head.”

A respiratory worker said that while Holmes was being fitted for a N95 mask. An airtight white hood was put on her and scented aerosol was sprayed into it to make sure she was wearing it correctly.

McCoy said “coonie” in a chat with Holmes around Thanksgiving 2019, when he said that his uncle’s dark skin made people call him “Coonie.”

Holmes told him she was shocked by what he said and then left.

Documents from the court show that after Holmes’ complaints were looked into, McCoy was given a written warning for letting Hibbert act in a rude way.

Hibbert was fired in 2020 for putting tape over her mouth after getting one last warning for using a racial slur in a way that made other people feel uncomfortable.

She said that the tape was the only way she could say something that would make things worse.

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