A Bexar County jury found in favor of the employee in a retaliation lawsuit. Joseph Sifuentes, an 18 year employee of Bill Miller’s Barbacue, told a female manager to go to Human Resources regarding a male supervisor who was harassing her. The male harasser was a friend of Sifuentes’ boss. The male harasser was fired. Sifuentes’ supervisor, Edward Chagoya, was not happy his friend had been fired.
Later, Mr. Chagoya began to harass Sifuentes. When Sifuentes asked Mr. Chagoya about work issues, Mr. Chagoya said management wanted to hang Mr. Sifuentes. In November, 2018, Mr. Sifuentes went to HR himself. A week later, he was fired.
Bill Millers claimed it caught Mr. Sifuentes gambling. They apparently based this allegation on a piece of paper on which Sifuentes had written down various point spreads. Bill Millers did not conduct an actual investigation into the matter, said Sifuentes’ attorney. The company fired the 18 year employee within days of learning of the alleged gambling.
Last week, the jury found – by a vote of 10 to 2 – this firing amounted to reprisal and awarded Sifuentes $689,000 in lost pay and benefits. The jury declined to award lost pay in the future or compensatory (emotional suffering) damages.
The jury did award $300,000 in punitive damages. But, state law requires a verdict be unanimous in awarding punitive damages. A 10-2 verdict is not unanimous. So, that punitive damage award is void. Mr. Sifuentes had started as a $24,000 trainee in 2000 and rose to the post of assistant operations director overseeing 17 district managers and some 76 restaurants. See San Antonio Express News report here.