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Jury awards Sears employee $5.2 million in racial harassment suit

California employers are responsible for properly addressing issues that may arise in the workplace between employees in order to protect the rights of each individual. However, failing to address an employee's concerns may foster a hostile work environment that could have a serious impact on an employee's life and happiness.

Last month, one California employee's racial harassment lawsuit finally ended in his favor after a jury awarded the man $5.2 million in damages for lost wages and pain and suffering. The lawsuit claimed that the Elk Grove man was humiliated by a co-worker while working at the Sears home improvement store in Natomas. When he complained to his supervisors about the harassment, Sears did nothing to protect his rights.

The former Sears employee said that the harassment began in August 2008. The African American man was at a company barbeque when a co-worker made a racial slur that was directed at the man in front of his family. The Elk Grove man said that he tried to ignore the comment at first, but subsequent events caused him to raise the issue to his boss.

Instead of investigating the man's complaints, supervisors fired the employee in December 2008. The co-worker who allegedly harassed the man was never disciplined by the company.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Sacramento Superior Court, stated that the man has been in a "constant struggle" since 2008. After losing his job, his family was forced to use their savings in order to make ends meet. His family is now at risk of losing their house to foreclosure. Although the man is currently employed, his family is still trying to catch up financially from when he first lost his job with Sears.

After a one-month trial, the jury concluded that Sears had violated the law by failing to investigate or address the complaints of racial harassment. The Elk Grove man said after last month's decision that he finally feels like justice has been served in his case. He also said that he hopes no other employee will ever have to go through the pain and suffering that he had experienced over the past few years.

Attorneys for Sears commented that the company may consider filing an appeal.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Sears employee wins $5.2 million jury award for racial harassment," Loretta Kalb, Oct. 26, 2011