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FEATURED VERDICT: $11 Million Sexual Harassment Verdict Against Winery Who Rehires Lecherous Manager

Plaintiffs Megan Meadowcraft and Amber Brown were jointly awarded a total of $11 million by a Los Angeles County jury for their sexual harassment and retaliation claims against the two companies behind Keyways Vineyard and Winery (“Keyways”) located in Temecula California: Silverton Partners Inc. and Essence Business Group, Inc. Keyways principal place of business was in South Pasadena. The lawsuit principally targeted the actions of a short-term manager, Carlos Pineiro.

Ms. Brown was hired by Keyways in early 2015. Several months later, Keyways then hired Pineiro to serve as the new general manager and then hired Meadowcraft. Almost immediately, both Plaintiffs claimed that Pineiro made numerous sexually inappropriate comments, would flirt with each, would try and find each alone in confined places, and would leer at each. Plaintiff Brown specifically claimed that Pineiro would frequently become drunk at work, where he would scream at her, threaten to physically harm her if she betrayed him or complained about his behavior, and, during one of these incidents, Plaintiff Brown claimed that he grabbed her wrist causing her to fall down a set of stairs. Ms. Meadowcraft specifically claimed that Pineiro took pictures of her at work, physically touched both her rear end and her vagina, and even pushed her against a wall in a shed where he claimed he would give her a promotion if he had sex with her.

Both Plaintiffs alleged that they complained had their work schedules reduced immediately after.

Approximately two weeks after his hire date, Defendants fired Pineiro due to these complaints. However, approximately two weeks later, Defendants inexplicably hired Pineiro back for the same management job and ignored Plaintiffs’ complaints of his return. As a result of the inaction, Plaintiff Brown filed and succeed in obtaining a temporary restraining order.

At trial, Plaintiff Brown testified, with the corroboration of her therapist, that she suffered from symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Similarly, Plaintiff Meadowcraft also testified to symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder. Plaintiffs waived their economic damages. Moreover, multiple witness, including coworkers and customers, corroborated much of Pineiro’s inappropriate behavior.

The jury found in favor of both Plaintiffs on all counts of sexual harassment, retaliation, failure to prevent harassment, and negligent supervision, retention and hiring. They awarded each Plaintiff $2.5 million for past and future emotional distress, and $3 million in punitive damages.