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Sixth Circuit upholds new trial and verdict for woman subjected to hostile work environment

Theresa Waldo sued Consumers Energy Company after she was dismissed from the journeyman electrician program.  She alleged that for the duration of the program and while she worked in the electrical transmission division of the company, she was subjected to widespread sexual harassment.  Waldo provided numerous examples of gender-based discriminatory conduct and thoroughly documented her complaints to the Company and its inaction.  Many of her complaints were either admitted by company employees or corroborated by third-party witnesses. 

At a trial in 2009, the jury ruled against Waldo and the trial judge concluded that the verdict was "against the great weight of the evidence."  The judge granted her a new trial.  At the second trial, Waldo's attorneys limited their claim to only one of seven original legal theories and acheived a seven-figure verdict.  By law, the latter verdict was reduced to $300,000.00 and the judge awarded Waldo attorneys fees, as allowed in successful civil rights cases. Consumers appealed on a number of grounds, and its complaints were dismissed by the appelate court.  The Court held that there was ample basis both for the judge's grant of a new trial and for the jury's conclusion that Waldo had proved a hostile work environment.  The Court also upheld the award of $400.00 per hour for Waldo's lead attorney, noting that he was a highly-regarded and experienced practitioner who achieved an excellent result on her behalf. As part of its holding, the Court noted that Waldo could enter "stale" discrimination incidents in the record to confirm a hosile work environment, where at least one incident had occurred within the statute of limitations period.

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