There’s an axiom among lawyers that “bad cases make for bad law.” What follows is one of those cases.
The plaintiff, Miguel Arrieta-Colon, sued Wal-Mart and a handful of his supervisors and managers because he was ridiculed after receiving a penile implant used to correct a sexual dysfunction. Apparently the implant itself left the plaintiff with the appearance of a semi-erection.
The plaintiff alleged that he was subject to a hostile work environment because he was constantly harassed and ridiculed by both supervisors and co-workers and, despite his complaints, no corrective actions were taken. The jury eventually awarded $76,000 in compensatory damages and $160,000 in punitive damages because Arrieta-Colon had to quit in light of the harassment.
This decision raises three important points:
- The defense attorneys blew the opportunity to argue whether or not the plaintiff had an actual disability or met the “regarded as” test under the ADA. Because the attorneys failed to use this argument on appeal the court could not consider it.
- The plaintiff was able to move forward with a constructive discharge case because Wal-Mart failed to take any action to prevent his harassment.
- Punitive damages were awarded against Wal-Mart in large part because its human resource officer took the position that “boys will be boys” and didn’t interfere with the actions taken by the store’s management.
You can read the case by clicking here.