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Invesco Seeking New Trial after Fired Employee Receives $1 Million in FMLA Lawsuit

October 28th, 2021 Allison Frison

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Raslyn Cobbin-Wooten, a former media relations director at Invesco Ltd, filed a lawsuit against her former employer claiming she was fired for taking time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). She had originally sued the company in 2019 for racial discrimination, claiming that she was denied certain amenities and privileges that a white counterpart was offered. She met with her supervisor in 2017 to discuss these disparities, and her supervisor never passed her complaints along to Human Resources (HR). When Cobbin-Wooten herself reported it to HR, there was no response, and she received a negative review from the supervisor. She was later placed on a “personal improvement plan.” After taking FMLA leave due to health concerns, she was placed on an “indefinite performance improvement plan.” A jury sided with her in June and awarded her $1 million for her FMLA claims. 

Invesco Seeks New Trial

Now, Invesco is seeking a new trial, arguing that the jury’s $1 million award incorrectly included $618,500 in punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages that exceed simple compensation and are awarded to punish the defendant for poor conduct. Cobbin-Wooten has objected to the company’s request for a new trial, stating to the court that the company “offered no compelling argument to set aside the jury’s verdict.” Cobbin-Wooten also told U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt that the company failed to object during the original trial, meaning that it waived the argument. She added that there is no Fifth Circuit ruling that FMLA prohibits punitive damages. She stated, “The statute does not expressly exclude punitive damages, and at least one federal court has held that the FMLA allows for compensatory and punitive damages.”

Invesco’s Pretrial Misconduct

Cobbin-Wooten herself had also requested a new trial based on her Title VII racial discrimination claims, which the jury had rejected. Judge Hoyt denied her request for a new trial, stating that she had already been paid back her lost wages under the FMLA claim. However, the judge did sanction Invesco’s attorneys for their conduct before the trial. According to a recent Law360 article, “Judge Hoyt sanctioned Invesco’s attorneys for walking out of a deposition with the company’s human resources director Rick Rarick twice to discuss a previously recorded conversation between Cobbin-Wooten and Rarick that came to light in the opposing counsel’s questioning.” 

Even after their behavior during the deposition, the attorneys continued to display misconduct by asking the court for a summary judgement based on a false representation that they had investigated Cobbin-Wooten’s racial discrimination claims, which they had not. A summary judgement is a judgement entered by a court for one party against the other without a full trial. Judge Hoyt described this behavior as “constituted obstruction” and “unprofessionalism.” He sanctioned the company and its counsel $3,480 for Cobbin-Wooten’s attorney fees and also gave Cobbin-Wooten $385,000 in liquidated damages, plus 6% prejudgement interest. Eric J. Cassidy, Cobbin-Wooten’s attorney, stated, “The point is, the jury gave $1 million exactly, which to me indicates an intent to give $1 million, and if they were told they couldn’t give punitive damages under FMLA, they could have maybe made a decision that was different on discrimination.” 

Seek Legal Assistance Today 

If your FMLA rights are being violated, you might benefit from consulting with an FMLA lawyer in New York or New Jersey. Seek legal assistance from the Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City and Livingston, NJ. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.