Throughout the month of January and into the beginning of February, trial was held in the case of Marchuk v. Faruqi and Faruqi. The trial was before Judge Hellerstein in the Southern District of New York.
The complaint alleged that the plaintiff was subjected to various conduct at work which constituted sexual harassment. The case received much attention from legal blogs because (1) the defendant was a well known employment law firm and (2) some of the allegations were particularly severe, such as non-consensual sex.
On February 5, 2015, the jury returned its verdict. Of the many claims asserted, the jury found for the plaintiff on only one – a claim for sexual harassment under the New York City Human Rights Law. The verdict suggests that the jury did not believe the most serious of the allegations. The jury awarded compensatory damages of $90,000, punitive damages against an individual defendant for $45,000, and $5,000 in punitive damages against the firm. The plaintiff had asked for $2,000,000.
On February 9, 2015, the legal blog “Above the Law” published an interview it conducted with one of the jurors on the case. The interview is a revealing look into the minds of those who ultimately decide the fate of most employment discrimination trials. The entire interview, available here, is fascinating and worth a read. However, there are a few important takeaways for plaintiffs, employers, and even jurors:
1) The importance of credibility cannot be understated. In the Marchuk case, there can be little doubt that if the plaintiff’s testimony was credited, she should have proven most of her claims. The juror, however, said that the jury simply did not believe the plaintiff’s version of events, in part, because she contradicted herself. According to Above the Law, the juror said, “At the end of the day, we didn’t buy her story.” Thus, plaintiffs need to establish credibility which starts before ever filing a lawsuit. Notably, the jury did not believe the defendant either, but the plaintiff bears the burden of proving her case so if the jury cannot believe the plaintiff, she cannot win.
2) Employers must take reports of sexual harassment seriously. The jury awarded $5,000 in punitive damages against the employer law firm. The juror told Above the Law that when the law firm found out about some allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct, “they did do something, but not enough.” So, employers should conduct full and complete investigations.
3) Jurors called to sit for an employment discrimination trial should be glad! Simply put by the interviewed juror: “Overall, though, we were glad to get this case because it was interesting. Before I was having nightmares about getting some insider-trading case and having to hear about SEC violations. At least this was tangible stuff that we could all relate to.”
The partners at Famighetti & Weinick, PLLC are experienced trial attorneys who have also had the opportunity to talk to their jurors after trials. They use this information every day in strategizing clients’ cases and in preparing clients for all phases of litigation.
If you have a question about the Marchand case, employment law, discrimination, retaliation, or trials, call the employment law firm Famighetti & Weinick, PLLC at 631-352-0050 or visit our website at linycemploymentlaw.com