Jury Awards $6 Million to Former Employee in National Origin, Age Discrimination Case

A federal jury recently found in favor of a former employee claiming national origin and age discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and state law. Middlebrooks v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., et al, No. 2:17-cv-00412, 2nd am. complaint (E.D. Pa., Apr. 25, 2017). The case is notable in part because the plaintiff alleged that the defendants, an Israeli pharmaceutical company and its American subsidiary, discriminated against him because of his “American origin.” Id. at 1. If you have questions of this nature, contact a New Jersey employment discrimination attorney.

In early 2018, the court allowed the plaintiff’s claims against the Israeli parent company to proceed under a theory of joint-employer liability. The case went to trial against both defendants in November 2018. The jury awarded the plaintiff over $6 million in damages.

Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin, among other factors, and retaliation for reporting alleged unlawful acts. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2(a)(1), 2000e-3(a). The ADEA prohibits discrimination on the basis of age against individuals who are at least forty years old. 29 U.S.C. §§ 623(a)(1), 631(a). Unlawful discrimination may include harassment on the basis of a protected category, particularly when it creates a hostile work environment that prevents an individual from performing their job duties effectively.

The plaintiff in Middlebrooks sued his American employer, which is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Pennsylvania; as well as its Israel-based parent company. The defendants moved to dismiss the claims against the Israeli company for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. They argued that the Israeli company did not meet the definition of an “employer” under any of the cited statutes. The court denied this motion in February 2018. It found that the plaintiff had established subject matter jurisdiction under a “joint-employer” theory, which examines the amount of control that a company exercises over an employee in matters like hiring and firing, work conditions, supervision, and compensation.

The plaintiff began working for the defendants in 2001, when he was 44 years old. He claimed that he received good performance reviews until January 2014, when he began working under an new supervisor, who was based in Israel and was more than a decade younger than him. He was, he alleged, the oldest employee reporting to this supervisor, and one of only two Americans.

The plaintiff alleged a pattern of conduct that demonstrated bias on the basis of his age and his nationality. He stated in his complaint that he reported his concerns to his employer, that the employer’s investigation found no improper activity or bias, and that he faced harassment and retaliation as a result. He was terminated in February 2016, supposedly for reasons related to performance, but which he claimed were pretextual.

After the jury trial, the plaintiff dismissed the Israeli parent company from the suit under Rule 41(a)(2). The jury awarded him $6.16 million in damages, with $1.16 million of that amount being compensatory and the rest being punitive. This exceeds the maximum amount of punitive damages allowed by Title VII, but not the ADEA.

The knowledgeable and experienced employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group advocate for the rights of New Jersey and New York employees, representing them in claims for unlawful employment practices under state and federal law. To schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you, please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.

More Blog Posts:

Definition of “Nation” Might Be at Issue in New Jersey National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, May 19, 2017

EEOC Issues New Guidelines on National Origin Discrimination in Employment, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, February 16, 2017

Certain Terms May Act as Code for Age Discrimination, Other Unlawful Employment Practices in New Jersey, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, May 19, 2016

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