LOS ANGELES, July 3, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — A Los Angeles Superior Court jury sent a powerful message against age discrimination this week when it awarded the largest verdict of its kind in Los Angeles history: over $28 million in punitive damages to dental worker Codie Rael, a 58-year-old woman from Ontario. This punitive award comes on top of more than $3 million in compensatory damages already awarded to Rael last week in the same case, for a total of about $31.1 million.
During the trial, the jury learned that Rael had been subjected to repeated harassment and discrimination over the years on the basis of her age as well as her sex. She had been told things like “you are outdated” and “we need younger workers in here,” and was given increased workloads. She was also denied training, support, and career advancement that were offered to younger colleagues. She attributed much of the abuse to her immediate supervisor, Fernando Estavillo, and his supervisor, Mark Valiquette.
Ultimately the pressure compelled Rael to quit.
Rael’s attorney, Los Angeles employment discrimination lawyer Carney Shegerian, summarized the situation when he told the jury, “This wasn’t some accident that a whole department was wiped out and replaced by people younger and cheaper.”
The jury agreed. Its historic award of $28 million in punitive damages is believed to be intended to send a message to other companies who may be committing the same crimes: Age discrimination may be widespread, but the laws against it are crystal clear.
The victory is also a significant one for Shegerian himself, who, after winning a $26 million age discrimination verdict for a separate case in 2014, now has the two top such verdicts in the history of Los Angeles.
Anthony Nguyen, another attorney and colleague of Shegerian’s, said: “Ms. Rael embodies what an employer should appreciate about a hardworking and loyal employee. Unfortunately her career was cut short due to prejudices about her age. I’m proud that a jury of her peers recognized such illegality and sent a strong message that this behavior should not occur in the workplace.”
Rael had worked in the dental industry for over 35 years for a pair of companies owned by the Danaher Corporation: Sybron Dental Specialties Inc. and KaVo Kerr Group. Of the $28 million verdict, Sybron was ordered to pay $16 million and KaVo Kerr $12 million. The full verdict found them guilty of age discrimination, age harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination.
After the verdict was announced, Rael said she was relieved. “I hope they learned something from this so they can become the great place to work they once were.”
Headquartered in Santa Monica, California and with offices in San Diego, San Francisco, & New York, Shegerian & Associates is a law firm specializing in protecting the rights of employees who have been wronged by their employers. Carney Shegerian, Trial Lawyer of the Year Award winner for 2013, has won 80 jury trials in his career, including nearly 40 seven-figure verdicts. Shegerian & Associates is passionately dedicated to serving the needs of its clients. For more information about the firm, visit www.ShegerianLaw.com.
Media Contact: To arrange interviews with Carney Shegerian employment law matters, please contact media@ShegerianLaw.com
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