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Lesson learned: teacher prevails in racial discrimination lawsuit

It is about a three-hour, 200-mile drive from the southwestern corner of Wisconsin to the northeastern corner of Missouri. Our states aren't separated by great geographic or philosophical distances. Their state's Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability or age. Wisconsin's Fair Employment Law is similar, though a bit broader.

It's worth noting the similarities in the aftermath of a Missouri jury's recent verdict in a race discrimination lawsuit. The jury ordered that the plaintiff receive $100,000 more in punitive damages than her attorneys had requested. The former teacher is to receive $4.35 million after being fired because she is white.

She worked for the state for seven years, her lawsuit stated, receiving nothing but positive reports from supervisors over that time. Everything was fine until a new supervisor, who is black, was hired and began subjecting her to racial discrimination and sexual harassment.

According to her lawsuit, he told her that she was unable to teach African-American students because she's "an old suburban white woman." After complaining about the discrimination to administrators, she said was subjected to retaliation.

The former teacher is to receive:

  • $750,000 in compensatory damages ($200,000 in lost wages and $550,000 for emotional distress)
  • $3.6 million in punitive damages ($100,000 more than her employment law attorneys requested)

In fact, the final total could go higher. A judge will review the case and could add attorneys' fees to her compensation under state law.

The verdict will hopefully send a message to employers and supervisors everywhere to respect employees' workplace rights.

Our Milwaukee employment law firm can help you fight to protect your dignity, career and rights in matters of unlawful workplace discrimination.

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