A federal judge in New York has ruled that a plaintiff could recover only a small portion of the $2.5 million a jury awarded him, granting the defendant’s request for the reduction. Saber v. New York State Department of Financial Services, No. 1:15-cv-05944 (S.D. N.Y. July 20, 2018).  Plaintiff Nasser Saber, who is Muslim, had filed an eight-count complaint alleging that the employer, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), discriminated against him based on his religion and national origin, and otherwise retaliated against him in violation of Title VII, Sections 1981 and 1983, and New York Executive Law Section 296.

The DFS denied Saber’s allegations and filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied in part and granted in part. The following issues remained for the jury, according to the court: “whether the failure to promote Plaintiff to the Chief Risk Management Specialist (“CRMS”) position was discrimination prohibited under Title VII”; (2) whether negative performance reviews, a two-day suspension, an unsatisfactory mid-year rating, and the assignment of lesser job responsibilities in 2014 was in retaliation for Saber’s complaint against DFS filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and (3) “the amount of damages for Plaintiff Saber’s emotional distress, if any.”

After a six-day trial, the jury “(1) found that Defendant DFS had discriminated against Plaintiff Saber based on national origin, but not religion, when it did not promote him to CRMS, (2) found that Defendant DFS had retaliated against Plaintiff Saber for filing the EEOC complaint, and (3) awarded Plaintiff $2.5 million in damages for his emotional distress.”

DFS moved, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 50 and 59, for a judgment in its favor as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for remittitur of the jury’s damage award to an amount between $5,000 and $35,000. The court denied DFS’ motion for judgment, but granted its motion for remittitur in part and reduced the damages for emotional distress from $2.5 million to $125,000. The court noted that it was “[g]iving deference to the jury’s finding and yet honoring the principle that emotional distress damages are required to be compensatory (rather than punitive or exemplary.”

The court’s decision underscores the potential for an award of damages to be significantly reduced, and the importance of effectively litigating issues related to damages and filing appropriate motions following trial. Jackson Lewis attorneys have significant experience litigating and trying cases dealing with workplace issues, including discrimination, and retaliation.