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Fraternity-Like Culture: $460M Awarded to Ex-Workers Who Sued California Utility for Racial and Sexual Discrimination

A Southern California utility was sued by two men who claimed they were forced out of their jobs after complaining about sexual and racial harassment in the workplace. A Los Angeles jury has awarded Alfredo Martinez and Justin Page a whopping $440 million in punitive damages.

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Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-sitting-at-the-table-6077296/

They called the workplace environment a fraternity-like culture, and when they reported widespread sexual harassment and racist language, the ex-Edison workers said they were pushed out.

Martinez and Page sued electricity supplier Southern California (SoCal) Edison and its parent, Edison International, over incidents that occurred in a utility office in the South Bay area of L.A. County. Both men claimed they suffered retaliation after reporting harassment, The Associated Press reported.

The award was handed down on June 2; The $440 million was in addition to $24.6 million the jury awarded in compensatory damages, the deRubertis Law Firm said in a statement.

After being employed by Edison for 16 years at Edison, ​​Martinez said he had been pushed out of his supervisor job in April 2017 by “constructive termination — a claim accusing the employer of creating or permitting intolerable working conditions in order to force out a worker — after reporting widespread sexual harassment and racist language,” The Los Angeles Times reported.

Page began working for Edison in 2015, according to court filings.

SoCal Edison is the largest subsidiary of Edison International. It is the primary electricity supply company for much of Southern California, with 15 million customers. Edison International is a public utility holding company based in Rosemead, California.  

Here’s how the award breaks down: Martinez was awarded punitive damages of $300 million from Edison International and $100 million from SoCal Edison; the jury awarded Page $30 million in punitive damages from Edison International and $10 million from SoCal Edison.

There was also a compensatory sum of $22.37 million, most of which was awarded to Martinez.

SoCal Edison and Edison International said they would appeal the verdict, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“The jury decision is not consistent with the facts and the law and does not reflect who we are or what we stand for, and we intend to challenge the decision and seek a new trial,” SoCal Edison spokeswoman Diane Castro said.

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