A jury has awarded $80.7 million to a former United Parcel Service manager who said UPS retaliated against her after she accused a driver of poking her in the breast.
The Polk County jury agreed with Linda Channon, a 22-year UPS employee, that the shipping company fostered a hostile work environment when it failed to listen to her complaints of harassment and punished her for them.
UPS was ordered to pay her $500,000 in compensatory damages and $80.2 million in punitive damages. Under a federal law that would apply to the verdict, Channon would be entitled to no more than $300,000 in punitive damages. Her lawsuit also challenges the consitutionality of that law.
Channon, 47, said she was poked in the breast by a driver under her supervision during an argument in 1993. The driver was fired but rehired, and then he began stalking Channon, said her attorney, Roxanne Conlin.
According to Conlin, “the people above her refused to provide her any protection, then started being critical of her and her efforts in a way that was simply unfair.”
Channon said UPS moved her from job to job, shunning and excluding her from meetings and giving her assignments that men were not given.
“I had different standards than the men had,” she said. “Every day I was being screamed at, being belittled, being humiliated. Those are things that are hard emotionally when you’ve worked at a place a long time and been very dedicated and done a very good job.”
She left the company on a doctor’s orders in 1996.
“Ultimately, they got her,” Conlin said. “She could no longer function in an environment that was so totally hostile to her.”
Dan Wilczek, an attorney for UPS, said the company will appeal. “We do not believe that the verdict is supported by the evidence presented during trial,” he said.
Channon, a divorced mother of three grown children, cried when the verdict was read.
“Anytime in my experience at UPS that you complain, they considered you were the problem, rather than the problem being sexual harassment,” she said.
“They expect you to be tough and handle whatever was dished out.”