Cashier wins modest verdict arising out of retaliatory firing
Judith Ackley was a cashier at a food market operated by Raleigh & Ron Corporation. She tired of listening to a co-worker's sexually explicit mouthings on a regular basis, apparently, and after complaining verbally to supervisors on several occasions without response, she wrote a letter to the employer seeking remedial action. Ackley's hours were immediately reduced and she was transferred to a different store. When she didn't show up at a new assignment she was given without adequate notice, Ackley was fired. She filed suit alleging sexual harassment and retaliation.Jurors awarded Ackley $11,000.00 in damages and $30,000.00 in costs and attorney fees, based solely on the retaliation claim. The Defendant corporation then appealed, arguing that it hadn't received adequate notice of the complaints regarding sexually-explicit language which Ackley raised at trial. In the lower court, the judge responded to the defendant's argument of inadequate notice by instructing the jurors to ignore the testimony complained of. The instruction was apparently effective, as the jury verdict was based solely on the retaliation claim and jurors rejected Ackley's sexual harassment claim. Noting the latter outcome, in combination with the uncontroverted evidence of Ackley's prior complaints, the Court of Appeals rejected the corporation's appellate complaints based on the "surprise" testimony. The modest jury verdict was affirmed.