A Bexar County jury awarded a former employee of San Antonio Water Systems $1.6 million in state district court. The former SAWS employee alleged she had been fired after she reprimanded the Vice-President for Communications because he asked a female employee to lunch. See San Antonio Express News report. Debra Nicholas had been special assistant to the former CEO, David Chardavoyne when she reproved the VP for asking out a junior employee. Mr. Chardavoyne left SAWS. Ms. Nicholas was then moved under the same VP for Commuinication. Not surprisingly, her position was eliminated soon afterward. She filed a lawsuit alleging she was fired for opposing discriminatory practices.
The water utility claimed Ms. Nicholas’ position was eliminated as part of a reorganization. But, she was the only employee so "reorganized."
The jury award appears to be in excess of the caps on compensatory and punitive damages. The highest amount allowed is no more than $500,000. So, I am sure the jury award will be reduced by the judge. The lawyer for the plaitiff is Alex Katzman.
Mr.Katzman won another large judgment against City Public Service in 2008. That jury award was overturned in a poor decision by San Antonio’s Fourth Court of Appeals. See decision. The court found that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury award. In reviewing jury verdicts, the appellate court is supposed to look at the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict. The appellate court is supposed to defer to the jury verdict. But, the opinion weighs some evidence and draws its own credibility determinations. So, yes, a worker can win a discrimination case and yet lose it entirely on appeal.