Turley v. ISG Lackawanna, Inc., No. 13-561 (2d Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff, a longtime steelworker in Lackawanna, New York, endured racial insults, intimidation, and degradation over more than three years, including slurs, evocations of the Ku Klux Klan, statements comparing black men to apes, death threats, and placement of a noose dangling from the plaintiff’s automobile. Supervisorsʹ meager efforts failed to stop the escalating abuse. Managers often appeared to condone or participate in part in the harassment. A jury awarded $1.32 million in compensatory damages for hostile or abusive work environment because of his race and the state tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury also assessed $24 million in punitive damages, mostly against the employer and its parent company, subsequently reduced to $5 million. The court also awarded the plaintiff substantial attorney fees and costs. The Second Circuit affirmed, but remanded for further reduction of punitive damages, holding that the district court correctly instructed the jury as to employer liability, that the jury could find that the plaintiff’s direct employer and the parent company constituted a single employer, that the jury verdict as to intentional infliction of emotional distress was supported by the evidence, and that the compensatory damages award was proper.