DENVER – A jury in federal court in Denver, Colorado today returned a $3.175 million verdict in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by two female managers against The Larry H. Miller Group, owner of more than 35 car dealerships nationwide.
The lawsuit, filed in 2003, charged the car dealership with subjecting two of its female managers to sexual harassment by a general manager, who repeatedly tried to touch a female finance director, made lewd and inappropriate sexual comments to her, referred to her business meetings with the female controller as “cookie breaks,” and threw her Christmas cards at her when she told him to stop trying to touch her. After the finance director and controller reported this treatment to human resources, the Vice President of Operations for the Automotive Division, Tony Schnurr, ordered a general manager to get rid of the women, calling them “troublemakers and bitches,” one witness told the jury.
The jury found the car dealership liable for sexual harassment and retaliation and awarded the women $175,000 in emotional distress damages. The jury also found that The Larry H. Miller Group acted with malice or reckless disregard against the women and awarded $3 million dollars in punitive damages. A hearing has been set for the judge to assess back and front pay, and attorneys’ fees and costs. "We fought this fight for our sisters, for your sisters, your children, your daughters, your mothers. This is the 21st Century, and this kind of retaliation against women needs to stop,” said Roberta Pulse, one of the plaintiffs in this case. Added Tonya House, "We made history today. To my friends who were harassed, for every vile thing your manager did to you, for every repulsive act they took against you - we did this for you."
“This is a real victory for these courageous women,” said Kimberlie Ryan, of The Ryan Law Firm, LLC, attorney for the workers. “They stood up against one of the largest corporations in this country for seven long years. This is corporate America at its worst – taking away women’s jobs for refusing to be fondled and harassed by their male managers and for reporting it to HR.”
Larry H. Miller, who operates several car dealerships in Colorado, is a controversial Utah businessman, well known as the owner of the NBA’s Utah Jazz. Miller is also the owner a variety of other business ventures including Prestige Financial, Jordan Commons, Larry H. Miller Megaplex Theatres, KJZZ-TV, and the EnergySolutions Arena, previously called "Delta Center". Miller attracted national media attention when he pulled the movie Brokeback Mountain from one of his theatres in early 2006 and attracted attention in Denver when he berated a Denver Nuggets fan.
“The jury sent a strong message to employers today that in this time in history no longer will we tolerate unlawful harassment and retaliation against workers,” said Mr. Whitney Traylor, of the Traylor Law Group, co-counsel for the plaintiffs.