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Workers claimed pregnancies led to termination

Amount:

$6,181,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

New York

Venue:

Bronx County

Court:

Bronx Supreme

Injury Type(s):

mental/psychological-depression; mental/psychological-emotional distress; mental/psychological-post-traumatic stress disorder

Case Type:

Employment – Pregnancy, Wrongful Termination

Case Name:

Marlena Santana, Yasminda Davis & Melissa Rodriguez v. G.E.B. Medical Management Inc., Bruce Paswall & Peter Ayende,
No. 305261/08

Date:

September 15, 2015

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Yasminda Davis (Female, 30s), 

Marlena Santana (Female, 20s), 

Melissa Rodriguez (Female, 20s)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Scott A. Lucas;
Law Offices of Scott A. Lucas;
New York,
NY,
for
Yasminda Davis, Marlena Santana, Melissa Rodriguez ■ Steven Sack;
New York, NY, trial counsel, Law Offices of Scott A. Lucas;
New York,
NY,
for
Yasminda Davis, Marlena Santana, Melissa Rodriguez

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Charles Robins; Ph.D.; Psychology/Counseling; New York,
NY called by:
Scott A. Lucas, Steven Sack

Defendant(s):

pro se, 

Peter Ayende, 

Bruce Paswall, 

G.E.B. Medical Management Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

Laurie E. Morrison;
Law Office of Laurie E. Morrison;
New York,
NY,
for
Bruce Paswall, G.E.B. Medical Management Inc. ■ John C. Luke Jr.;
of counsel, Derek T. Smith Law Group, PLLC;
New York,
NY,
for
Bruce Paswall, G.E.B. Medical Management Inc. ■ Peter Ayende;

for
pro se

Facts:

On Oct. 5, 2006, plaintiff Yasminda Davis, an administrative worker in her early 30s, was terminated by her employer, Manhattan-based G.E.B. Medical Management Inc. During the ensuing day, plaintiff Marlena Santana, an administrative worker in her late 20s, was terminated by G.E.B. Medical Management. On March 5, 2007, plaintiff Melissa Rodriguez, an administrative worker in her 20s, was terminated by G.E.B. Medical Management. Each woman was terminated during a pregnancy; each was terminated by the company’s owner, Bruce Paswall. The women claimed that their terminations solely stemmed from their pregnancies. Davis, Rodriguez and Santana sued Paswall, G.E.B. Medical Management and their office’s manager, Peter Ayende. The plaintiffs alleged that they were subjected to discrimination and wrongful terminations. They further alleged that the defendants’ actions constituted a violation of the New York City Human Rights Law. Each plaintiff claimed that she was a competent, diligent worker who was mistreated and marginalized after revealing her pregnancy. Davis claimed that her pregnancy’s symptoms began in September 2006. She claimed that she experienced weeks of fatigue and nausea, but that she did not know that she was pregnant. She further claimed that Ayende became aware of her symptoms, that he inquired about the nature of the symptoms, and that she stated that she intended to consult an obstetrician. On Sept. 27, 2006, Davis was evaluated by an obstetrician. Her pregnancy was not immediately confirmed. During the following workday, she returned to the office. She claimed that her desk had been cleared, that her work had been reassigned, that she was told that her performance was lagging, that Paswall stated that she was "not working out," and that he suggested that she should have resigned. On Oct. 3, 2006, Davis learned that she was pregnant. She was terminated after two days had passed. She claimed that she was told that her termination stemmed from poor performance. Santana’s pregnancy was disclosed during June or July of 2006. She claimed that Paswall immediately stopped speaking to her, that she was moved out of a well-lighted, prominently located office, and that she was relocated to a cramped, dusty storage area. She also claimed that she was assigned meaningless, time-consuming tasks. Santana further claimed that her hours were halved during the fourth month of her pregnancy, that an attractive, non-pregnant replacement was hired, and that the replacement was given preferential treatment. Santana was terminated on Oct. 6, 2006. She claimed that she was told that her termination stemmed from poor performance. On Dec. 18, 2006, Rodriguez revealed that she was pregnant. She claimed that her workload was greatly increased during the ensuing weeks, that Paswall ignored her, that Ayende became hostile, and that Ayende charged that she had intentionally overstated the remaining duration of her pregnancy. She further claimed that she was told that she had to undergo an ultrasonography that was intended to determine the remaining duration of her pregnancy, that she was told that G.E.B. Medical Management would determine the doctor that would perform the test, and that the test’s results were forwarded to Ayende. Rodriguez was terminated on March 5, 2007. She claimed that she was told that her productivity had not been sufficient. Rodriguez also claimed that her supervisor, Talitha Crespo, stated that Davis and Santana were terminated because they had become pregnant. A witness claimed to have overheard the statement, though Crespo denied having made the statement. The plaintiffs claimed that Paswall’s discriminatory behavior began during the hiring process. They individually or collectively claimed that their recruitment interviews included questions that addressed their marital status, their husbands’ occupations and their desire to have children. The plaintiffs further claimed that they were subjected to cruel, inappropriate comments that addressed their pregnancies and the resultant changes of their respective physiques. Ayende, a pro se defendant, acknowledged having jokingly addressed the size of Rodriguez’s abdomen, and he also acknowledged having suggested that she would not be able to fit in one of the office’s rooms. However, he stated that the remarks were not discriminatory or mean-spirited. He suggested that he would have similarly addressed a "400-pound man." He claimed that his wife was a former employee of the company, that her tenure included a pregnancy, and that she was not mistreated by management. He further claimed that he did not order termination of the plaintiffs, that he never believed that they had to be terminated, and that he was shocked by their terminations. The remaining defendants’ counsel claimed that the plaintiffs’ terminations solely stemmed from deficiencies of their performance. They also claimed that Rodriguez was not required to undergo an ultrasonography.

Injury:

The plaintiffs claimed that they were subjected to discriminatory acts, that they were wrongfully terminated, and that they experienced post-traumatic stress disorder. They further claimed that their emotional distress included depression, humiliation, irritability and a fear of further pregnancies. Rodriguez underwent about 12 months of counseling. Each plaintiff ultimately procured another job. The plaintiffs sought recovery of lost earnings, damages for emotional suffering and punitive damages. Defense counsel contended that the plaintiffs did not experience discrimination or harassment that could have caused post-traumatic stress disorder.

Result:

The jury found that the plaintiffs’ terminations were not related to their performance of their jobs’ duties, that their pregnancies were determining elements of their terminations, and that they were subjected to inappropriate treatment. The jury determined that the plaintiffs’ damages totaled $6,181,000. The award included $1.5 million of punitive damages. Liability was assigned to each defendant, but damages were not equally assessed. Ayende must pay $75,000, which will be equally apportioned among the plaintiffs, and the remaining defendants must pay a total of $6,106,000, which includes all of the punitive damages.

Yasminda Davis: $500,000 Personal Injury: Punitive Exemplary Damages; $120,000 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability; $1,500,000 Personal Injury: compensatory damages; Melissa Rodriguez: $500,000 Personal Injury: Punitive Exemplary Damages; $29,000 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability; $1,500,000 Personal Injury: compensatory damages; Marlena Santana: $500,000 Personal Injury: Punitive Exemplary Damages; $32,000 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability; $1,500,000 Personal Injury: compensatory damages

Trial Information:

Judge:

Alison Y. Tuitt

Demand:

$450,000 (total, by all plaintiffs, from all defendants; prior to the trial)

Offer:

$15,000 (total, for all plaintiffs)

Trial Length:

1
 months

Trial Deliberations:

3
 hours

Jury Vote:

6-0

Jury Composition:

4 male/ 2 female

Post Trial:

Defense counsel has moved to set aside the verdict.

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Additional information was gleaned from court documents. Ayende, a pro se defendant, was not asked to contribute, and the remaining defendants’ counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.