Okla. Woman to Receive Less than Damage Award from Insurer

February 26, 2007

A Tulsa woman expects to receive far less than the $61 million awarded to her by an Oklahoma City federal jury in her gender discrimination lawsuit because of a cap on non-economic damages.

Kelly Grant, 38, said the jury must have agreed that she received “horrendous” treatment at the hands of Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. for the verdict to have been that large. But because of the damages ceiling, she said the company “won’t feel it.”

Norman attorney Woody Glass, who along with Stanley Ward represented Grant, confirmed that a $300,000 cap on non-economic damages applies to such claims under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

He said Grant could receive as much as $206,000 in back pay and about $600,000 in front pay on top of the $300,000, which would push the total verdict to more than $1 million.

“We represent a lady that stood up to the big corporate giant,” Glass said. “She just wanted an opportunity to tell a jury what happened to her.”

The jury was not told of the $300,000 cap, he said.

Grant alleged in her December 2005 lawsuit that her gender was a significant factor in Progressive’s employment decisions toward her. She alleged that she was a victim of gender discrimination, retaliation and a hostile work environment.

In a document filed in federal court, Grant said she attained the role of “Injury Operations Manager II” and managed Progressive’s casualty branch, “which excelled under plaintiff’s direction.”

She alleged that in 2002 a male state claims manager “engaged in gender discrimination by, among other things, deciding to disband the casualty branch.”

Grant was demoted, and her salary, bonus and job duties were reduced, according to the document. She also alleged that her authority to settle claims was reduced to a level well below that held by similarly situated male employees.

The document says Grant was given a June 22, 2004, deadline to either accept a position as an “Injury Operations Manager I” with the company or accept a severance package.

She said she notified Progressive on June 22, 2004, that she would accept the role, but the company claimed in a court document that Grant “refused to accept a lesser position within the company.”

Progressive claimed that it then “hired another qualified female” to fill the post it had offered Grant. The company alleged that Grant didn’t provide a “single fact demonstrating that she was subject to intimidation, ridicule or insult as a result of her gender.”

The jury disagreed, awarding her $350,000 on her hostile work environment claim, $350,000 for discrimination and $350,000 for retaliation for a total of $1,050,000 in compensatory damages.

The jury also found that the company acted with “malice or reckless indifference” toward Grant’s federally protected rights. That finding led to a $60 million punitive damages award.

Progressive spokeswoman Leslie Kolleda said Friday that the company would not comment on the case, including whether it will appeal the verdict.

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