Employees Who Successfully Sued Their Employers

by JRO on November 13, 2013

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While it may seem like “the man” always sticks it to the little guy, sometimes, an everyday employee wins a major legal concession against his boss. Such victories demonstrate that the legal system is capable of protecting citizens from corporate abuses.

Recent examples of employees who have successfully challenged their employer in court include Sylvia Ventura, Sean Riley, and eighty-eight employees at a BMW plant in South Carolina.

Sylvia Ventura Discrimination Suit Against ABM Industries Inc.

Sylvia Ventura was employed by ABM Industries Inc. as a janitor. During her time of employment, Ms. Ventura was the subject of harassment, threats and acts of violence by a supervisor of the company. Ms. Ventura reported these events to her employer, providing voicemail evidence of threats made by her by the accused supervisor.

The company failed to discipline the individual leading Ventura to take her company to court. Under Section 51.7 of California’s Civil Code, she was able to obtain compensatory relief. Section 51.7, known as the “Ralph Act,” addresses allegations considered to be hate crimes. The jury sided with Ventura, awarding $100,000 in compensatory damages, an additional $25,000 in civil penalties available under the Act and $550,000 in attorney fees.

Sean Riley Receives Award From Former Employer The Cash Store Over Medical Condition 

Sean Riley suffered from the medical condition bipolar disorder. This condition, which caused Mr. Riley to exhibit behaviors including paranoia and nervous and mental stress was something the University of Portland dropout disclosed to his employer, Cottonwood Financial (doing business as The Cash Store), at the time of his employment as an assistant manager. After nearly seven months on the job and a promotion to store manager, Riley began suffering from his condition and asked for time off. Instead of his request being granted, he was fired by the company in February of 2007.

Riley filed suit with the EEOC under the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act as well as the State of Washington’s Law Against Discrimination. Based on his prior disclosure of his medical condition and Cottonwood’s insufficient policies regarding the ADA, a judge for the U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington ruled in his favor. Riley received an award of $6,500 in back wages and an additional $50,000 for pain and suffering. The judge ordered The Cash Store to train its managers in procedures regarding laws that pertain to anti-discrimination and anti-retaliatory actions against employees.

•           EEOC For 88 Former Greer, South Carolina BMW Employees  In 2013 the EEOC successfully brought suit against automaker Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, known commercially as BMW, on behalf of 88 former plant workers in the company’s Greer, South Carolina manufacturing facility. The company, which changed contractors in 2008, instructed employees to submit to new criminal background checks as part of the employment process. Of the plant’s 645 employees, 88 were denied re-employment. Of these individuals, 80 percent of the fired employees were African-American, even though African-Americans made up only 55 percent of the total workforce.

The EEOC brought suit against BMW under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 asserting that the disproportionate number of African-American and Latino employees was terminated without regard to the severity, age or nature of their prior criminal conviction. The successful aspect of this case, which is still being decided, is that it created a chill effect on employers hiring outside contractors to review policies for fairness.


Tyrone Majors is a freelance writer specializing in complex legal topics. Those who need Mesothelioma Legal assistance should consult with a firm with a substantial track record in this area.

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