Reno Women Triumph in Sexual Harassment Suit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

June 20, 2011 - Comments Off

Two former employees of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Victoria McCarthy and Katherine Schmitt, recently prevailed in their lawsuit against the company when a federal jury awarded $800,000 in damages for sexual harassment and retaliation.

In 2007, McCarthy and Schmitt reported their supervisor for discriminating against a male employee because of his sexual orientation.  Other employees voiced similar concerns about the supervisor’s behavior, but within weeks, management instructed employees to refrain from “gossiping” about the supervisor.

Not only did the complaint go unresolved, but also the supervisor began retaliating against McCarthy and Schmitt by rejecting expense reports, purposefully misclassifying their time, and denying advancement opportunities.  During this time, the supervisor also made derogatory comments about Schmitt, made sexual advances toward McCarthy and suggested that Schmitt and McCarthy’s sexual and romantic lives affected their workplace productivity.

Before the women’s complaint to HR, the supervisor gave McCarthy positive feedback on her performance, but after learning of the report against her, the supervisor issued McCarthy numerous write-ups on bogus charges – retaliation that triggered severe emotional distress and led to McCarthy’s termination.  Schmitt too was forced to quit due to the hostile environment and the company’s failure to address their harassment and retaliation complaints. 

McCarthy and Schmitt were each awarded $150,000 compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages.

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