By: Lisanne L. Mikula, Esquire
This week, Americans honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who dedicated his life to purging the injustices which too often deny equality for all Americans. As Dr. King noted in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, April 16, 1963:
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
Dr. King’s words encapsulate what motivates us as attorneys and legal professionals to fight for those who have suffered unlawful discrimination. Just one instance of injustice—left unrectified—begins to unravel the cloak of equality provided to each and every American under the Constitution.
Several years ago, a young African-American woman sought our legal help after she had been terminated from her nursing job at a nursing home. After serving our nation in its armed forces, the nursing home position was our client’s first civilian job as a nurse. She cherished serving the residents to whom she provided care and anticipated enjoying a long career at the facility while she and her husband – also a U.S. military veteran – raised their young family.
Unfortunately, one of our client’s supervisors targeted her in a racially-discriminatory manner. Despite reporting the supervisor’s discriminatory conduct and requesting not to be scheduled to work with the supervisor, the employer refused to remove our client from the shift that she shared with the offending supervisor. Very soon after our client’s complaints to her employer, the supervisor presented to the employer false allegations that our client had engaged in wrongdoing. Without conducting an independent investigation, the employer relied solely on the version of events which had been concocted by the offending supervisor and then fired our client.
After years of challenging litigation and six long days of trial, the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County found that the nursing home had wrongfully terminated our client because it had relied on the false allegations of the supervisor, who had sought to oust our client from the workplace in retaliation for reporting the supervisor for engaging in racially discriminatory conduct. The Court entered a damages award in the total amount of $729,307.36, ordering the nursing home to pay economic damages in the form of lost back pay and lost employment benefits in the amount of $123,161.00, compensatory damages for mental anguish, humiliation and embarrassment in the amount of $184,000.00, reimbursement of attorneys’ fees in the amount of $386,342.50, and reimbursement of costs and expenses in the amount of $35,803.86. Following an unsuccessful appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the nursing home was also obligated to pay to our client not only the $729,307.36 damages award but also significant post-judgment interest in the amount of $37,764.13, for a grand total of $767,071.49.
Throughout this ordeal, our client never ever gave up. Instead, she fought for what is right, for herself, her family and our community. We could not feel any prouder of her.
The Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP is a full-service law firm in Media, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. We strive to help people, businesses and institutions throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania solve legal problems – and even prevent legal problems before they occur. To learn more about the full range of our specific practice areas, please visit www.dioriosereni.com or contact Lisanne L. Mikula, Esquire at 610-565-5700 or at [email protected]
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