A federal jury in Montgomery returned a $5.79 million verdict against Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama and a mid-level manager for sexual harassment, negligence and retaliation.
“The jury awarded double what we were asking for,” said Birmingham attorney Alicia Haynes, represented former Hyundai employee Tammy Edwards. “They were upset at the negligence.”
The jury, which returned its verdict, awarded $795,000 in compensatory and $5 million in punitive damages against Hyundai. The jury also returned a $10,000 punitive verdict against manager Mike Swindle after a nearly two-week trial before the U.S. District Court.
Swindle began harassing Edwards soon after her employment began in January 2006, court records show.
Swindle routinely directed lewd comments and gestures at Edwards, according to documents. On at least one occasion he pressed his body against hers while propositioning her, the documents show. The harassment went on for five months, according to records.
Haynes said Edwards eventually went to another mid-level manager about the harassment and was told that she should get used to it. Other female colleagues told her to act like the treatment did not bother her and Swindle would quit. When that did not work, she went to upper management and was retaliated against, Alicia Haynes said. She was placed in a job she physically could not perform, then forced to take medical leave.
The company took no action to stop the harassment, Alicia Haynes said. “They did nothing,” she said. “There were no policies in place. There was no training for Swindle at all.”
Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama officials said they will likely appeal the verdict after reviewing legal options.
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