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Manufacturer ordered to compensate fired workers

A Pennsylvania manufacturer has been ordered to pay more than $600,000 in back pay and damages to two employees who claimed they were fired for cooperating with U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators after their co-worker lost part of a finger in an accident.

In Perez v. Lloyd Industries, a district judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia awarded Matthew Spillane and Santos Sanna back pay in the amount of $117,710 and $373,568, respectively, as well as front pay to Mr. Sanna in the amount go $56,121. The court also awarded punitive damages totaling $100,000 to Mr. Spillane and $400,000 to Mr. Sanna.

On Aug. 1, the district court affirmed a jury’s conclusion that Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania-based Lloyd Industries wrongfully terminated its employees for engaging in protected activity in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Although Lloyd Industries attempted to limit the damages awarded to Mr. Sanna by introducing evidence of his alleged sexual harassment of another employee, the woman testified that she did not tell anyone about the harassment until after Mr. Sanna had been terminated and that the Facebook messages he sent her were flirtatious, but not harassing. The company did not initiate an investigation into the alleged harassment.

Although after-acquired evidence of misconduct is admissible to limit an employee’s recovery in a wrongful termination lawsuit, the district court judge held that she would decline to find that  company owner William Lloyd would have fired Mr. Sanna based on the allegations. She found credible testimony that Mr. Lloyd allowed pictures of naked women to be posted throughout the plant, as well as testimony reflecting “an ongoing tolerance for inappropriate and sexist comments and behavior” that undermined the company’s use of the alleged harassment as an affirmative defense. 

Neither Mr. Lloyd nor his attorneys immediately responded to requests for comment.