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Pregnant saleswoman rejected sexual advances, lost her job

Amount:

$1,008,625

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Texas

Venue:

Federal

Court:

United States District Court, Western District, Midland

Injury Type(s):

mental/psychological-emotional distress

Case Type:

Employment – Pregnancy; Discrimination – Gender; Civil Rights – Title VII; Employment – Sexual Harassment, Wrongful Termination, Gender Discrimination; Civil Rights – Civil Rights Act of 1964, Pregnancy Discrimination

Case Name:

Sara L. Roberts v. Brinkerhoff Inspection, Inc. d/b/a SMOB,
No. MO:16-CV-342-DC

Date:

June 6, 2018

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Sara L. Roberts (Female, 35 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Holly B. Williams;
Williams Law Firm, P.C;
Midland,
TX,
for
Sara L. Roberts ■ Brian Carney;
Carney Law Firm;
Midland,
TX,
for
Sara L. Roberts

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Bradley Ewing; Ph.D.; Economics; Lubbock,
TX called by:
Holly B. Williams, Brian Carney

Defendant(s):

Brinkerhoff Inspection Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

Brad J. Davidson;
Brad J. Davidson Law Firm, PC;
Lubbock,
TX,
for
Brinkerhoff Inspection Inc.

Defendant Expert(s):

Helen Reynolds;
Economics;
Dallas,
TX called by:
Brad J. Davidson

Facts:

On Sept. 17, 2015, plaintiff Sara L. Roberts, 35, a salesperson, went on a job orientation tour of SMOB Services, an oil field inspection company, where she had started work the day before. The company’s personnel director, Keith Demby, took Roberts in his vehicle for a ride-along to learn about aspects of the job and services the company provides. She claimed that Demby told her she was attractive and that they were going to date. On or about Sept. 22, Roberts went to a company bowling outing and Demby offered her a beer, but she declined because she was pregnant. Roberts claimed that she had told Demby, during the recruitment process before her hiring, that she was four weeks pregnant. She claimed that he asked her during her the recruitment if she was “expecting.” Roberts alleged that on Sept. 23, she told the office manager she had a name change because she was married the day before. Roberts claimed that Demby overheard the conversation and congratulated her. Roberts was terminated the next day. Roberts sued Brinkerhoff Inspection Inc., operating as SMOB Services, for sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Roberts alleged that she was a fired as a result of rejecting Demby’s sexual advances. She claimed that Demby conditioned the terms and conditions of her employment for an exchange of sexual favors. Roberts also alleged that her gender was a motivating factor in the decision to terminate her. Roberts alleged that SMOB intentionally discriminated against her by terminating her employment because of, or on the basis of, her pregnancy. SMOB denied all of Roberts’ allegations, contending that she was terminated for poor performance. SMOB also argued that Roberts was an at-will employee, subject to a 90-day probationary period. SMOB also argued that Roberts missed two days of work in her first week at the company. Due to economic declines in the oil field, SMOB claimed that it needed to re-evaluate its finances before committing to hiring a permanent salesperson, and it had to let Roberts go.

Injury:

Roberts claimed that she felt the SMOB job offer was a blessing, and that she was devastated when she was terminated. She claimed she felt worthless. She claimed that she suffered emotional distress. Roberts claimed that she was promised a base salary of $3,500 per month. She claimed that she was told that she could make $5,000 to $10,000 per month with commissions. She claimed that she took the job based on the representation that she would be able to make significantly more money in the oil and gas industry than what she was making as a waitress. Prior to accepting the job with SMOB, she only had job prospects as a waitress, she claimed. After her termination, Roberts subsequently took a job as a restaurant waitress at minimum wage. Roberts expert economist opined that she was entitled to back pay of $150,000 to $275,000 based on the promised base salary and expected commissions. In addition to compensatory damages for lost wages, emotional distress and attorney fees, Roberts sought punitive damages against SMOB for the egregious, willful and malicious conduct against her. She argued for punitive damages to punish SMOB and deter similar conduct in the future. Roberts’ expert economist argued that SMOB’s gross annual revenue was about $6 million to $8 million per year. Plaintiff’s counsel suggested that 10 percent of SMOB’s annual revenue would be a number that would get the company’s attention. The defense expert economist disputed Roberts’ claim for back wages, noting there is not a way to value her potential performance and earnings as she had never worked as a salesperson before. The defense argued that punitive damages were not warranted because SMOB did not act with malice, reckless indifference or fraud toward Roberts.

Result:

The jury found that Roberts proved she would not have been terminated but for her rejection of Demby’s sexual advances, requests or demands. The jury found that Roberts proved she would not have been terminated but for her sex. The jury found that Roberts proved that she would not have been terminated but for her pregnancy. It awarded $1,008,625.

Sara L. Roberts: $841,625 Personal Injury: Punitive Exemplary Damages; $125,000 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability; $42,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering

Trial Information:

Judge:

David Counts

Demand:

$118,000

Offer:

$58,000

Trial Length:

3
 days

Trial Deliberations:

3
 hours

Jury Composition:

6 male/ 2 female

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.