BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS — A federal district court judge in Massachusetts has upheld a $24 million jury award for a former employee who sued her employer for retaliation and discrimination based on her social anxiety disorder. The employer, PPD Development, had requested the court to set aside or reduce the award, arguing that it was excessive and unsupported. However, U.S. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin rejected these requests and affirmed the jury’s verdict.
In 2015, Lisa Menninger was hired as the executive director of the central labs at PPD, a clinical testing firm. She began working remotely from Massachusetts in 2017 and was terminated in February 2019. Menninger claimed that her termination was due to her social anxiety disorder, and she filed a lawsuit in 2019. She alleged that PPD unlawfully discriminated against her, failed to reasonably accommodate her disability, and eventually fired her.
PPD denied all allegations and argued that it had made efforts to accommodate Menninger’s disability. The case went to trial, and in March 2022, a federal jury found PPD in violation of disability laws at both the federal and state level. The jury concluded that PPD had failed to provide reasonable accommodation and had unlawfully discriminated and retaliated against Menninger.
Following the jury’s verdict, Judge Sorokin entered final judgment in favor of Menninger and against PPD. The judgment included a $24 million award, consisting of back pay, front pay, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages. Sorokin defended the jury’s findings and conclusions, stating that they were supported by the evidence presented during the trial.
PPD plans to appeal the ruling to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, according to Thermo Fisher Scientific, which acquired PPD in 2021.
Judge Sorokin concluded his ruling by emphasizing the jury’s determination that PPD’s conduct was an organized effort that knowingly violated the law and caused substantial harm to Menninger. He defended the size of the award, referring to the harm inflicted on Menninger. The judge found no grounds for a new trial or suspicion of a biased jury.
In his ruling, Judge Sorokin highlighted Menninger’s effectiveness as a witness and criticized PPD’s attempt to undermine the verdict with flawed legal arguments.
In conclusion, a federal district court in Massachusetts has upheld a $24 million jury award in a retaliation and discrimination case brought by a former employee with social anxiety disorder. The court rejected the employer’s request to set aside or reduce the award and defended the jury’s findings and conclusions. PPD plans to appeal the ruling.