Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Wyeth Workplace Retaliation Lawsuit Revived

Wyeth is having a ghost from the past come back to haunt it. Two years ago, the company had a retaliation and discrimination lawsuit filed against it thrown out by a court. Now, a federal court has overturned the verdict, clearing the way for a possible new trial.

In 2008, a jury in New York found for Wyeth in a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by former employee Howard Henry. Henry was a production engineer and chemist at Wyeth. His lawsuit alleged the company subjected him to racial discrimination. He also alleged the company denied him promotions, and he was given unfair performance reviews. His lawsuit was one of seven filed by other current and former African-American employees of the company’s Pearl River New York Campus, all alleging racial discrimination and retaliation. However, a jury decided against Henry.

The retaliation verdict has now been overturned by a federal appeals court. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled that the District Court judge in charge of overseeing Henry's trial wrongly instructed the jury. In the trial, the jury had been instructed that Henry needed to prove that the supervisor who retaliated against him, did so knowing that Henry had filed a discrimination complaint against the company. According to the Appeals Court judge, the evidence of retaliation that Henry provided might have been strong enough for a decision to go in his favor, if the jury had not been so instructed.

That means that Wyeth is likely to face a new trial. Obviously, Henry and his lawyers are very pleased with the verdict. Los Angeles labor lawyers however must make clear that this decision doesn't establish that there was retaliation in this case. Wyatt continues to insist that there was no retaliation of any sort in Henry's case.

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