Posted on Feb 02, 2006
Ex-P&G worker wins $2.6M suit
Lawsuit: Employee fired for reporting bias; company calls damages excessive
By NED B. HUNTER
A West Tennessee jury has awarded a former Procter & Gamble employee more than $2.6 million in damages, stemming from his January 2002 termination from the company.
Plaintiff and former P&G employee Dan Long filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of Pringles potato chips in U.S. District Court in Jackson in 2003, accusing the company of wrongful termination in retaliation for his complaints of racial discrimination, according to court documents.
While the lawsuit alleged P&G made a "practice of race discrimination against its African-American technicians," Long's attorney, Venita Martin, said Wednesday that was not a part of the case presented to the jury.
"The only issue that went to the jury was whether P&G had retaliated against Mr. Long after he filed his charges of race discrimination," said Martin, of Memphis-based Glankler Brown.
There are at least seven other similar cases against the company that will come to trial over the next two years, according to Martin.
After nearly five hours of deliberation on Tuesday, the jury of six women and one man found in favor of Long. They awarded him $2 million in punitive damages, $500,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish, $29,000 for lost medical insurance benefits and a yet to be determined sum for lost wages that will be about $81,000, according to Martin.
The awards given to Mr. Long do not necessarily include all attorneys' fees, which he also was seeking.
Derek Easton, plant manager for P&G, said the jury's award was extravagant.
"We believe that the damages awarded grossly exceed the statutory limits," he said. "So we are hopeful the award will be substantially reduced."
P&G argued in court documents that Long was terminated because he "falsified quality control reports," and for allegedly falsifying his employment application.
The company said Long was using "the proximity between his filing the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint in March 2002) and his termination" for the basis of his suit, according to court documents.
"We conducted three thorough investigations by different managers and reached the same honestly held belief that Mr. Long violated company policy," Easton said.
Martin said jurors disagreed.
"Mr. Long had received a number of awards ... from Procter & Gamble," Martin said. "His evaluations talked about what an honest employee he was ... he was a benefit to his team. All of those were just inconsistent with what Procter & Gamble said, and we believe that the jury was able to see through that."
Easton said P&G is considering its options to appeal.
"We are certainly going to do everything we can to pursue every avenue to overturn the verdict," he said. "Whether or not that would involve an appeal or not is still not determined."