MOUNDSVILLE -– A convenience store chain was victorious in a sexual harassment and retaliatory discharge case last week in Marshall County.
On July 19, Huntington attorneys Marc E. Williams and Melissa Foster Bird of Huddleston Bolen obtained a unanimous defense verdict in the case tried before Marshall Circuit Judge John Madden.
The case was filed against Speedway SuperAmerica LLC and two of its employees by James G. Bordas Jr. of Bordas and Bordas in Wheeling.
The plaintiff, Mary Tyler, a cashier for Speedway SuperAmerica in its New Martinsville store, alleged that she was repeatedly groped by a co-worker and that the company's failure to take action on her complaints created a hostile work environment. Shortly after making the complaint, the plaintiff's cash register came up over $200 short in one shift.
While Tyler was not accused of theft in the missing money, she ultimately was discharged because of the shortage. During the trial, it was revealed the plaintiff secretly taped a meeting between a Human Resources manager and the store manager and asserted that the tape showed that the company planned to set her up for firing with a register shortage.
The defense argued that the company's handling of the sexual harassment complaint was appropriate under its policies. The groping was conceded, but evidence was presented that immediately upon being advised of her complaint, an investigation began, disciplinary action was taken, and the offensive conduct stopped.
As for the firing, the defense asserted that termination for unexplained, large cash shortages was consistent with its longstanding policy. In support of this, the defense presented the acknowledgement of that policy that was signed by the plaintiff. As for the taped meeting, the defense argued that there was no evidence of a set up on the tape and invited the jury to listen to the tape during deliberations to confirm that fact.
The court allowed punitive damages to go to the jury, along with financial information regarding Speedway SuperAmerica's profitability. Additionally, the court allowed the plaintiff to introduce evidence of the termination of another cashier at the same store who had made a sexual harassment complaint. The defense argued that this other cashier was fired after just three weeks on the job because of repeated register shortages.
After deliberating for 70 minutes, the jury of five women and one man returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the defendants.