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Employee lawsuit verdict overturned on venue grounds

A $450,000 verdict in an employment lawsuit filed against the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant in Fayetteville has been overturned. The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled on Jan. 15 that the plaintiff in the case, who accused supervisors at the plant of harassment and wrongful termination, filed her case in the wrong court, invalidating the result. This case is an example of the sort of procedural errors that an attorney can spot when representing a client in business litigation.

The plaintiff formerly worked as manager of work crews at the Goodyear plant. According to her lawsuit, she was repeatedly yelled at and demeaned by one of her supervisors, which she believed was based on her race -- the plaintiff is African-American -- and her gender. The plaintiff also says that she was passed over for promotion in favor of white, less-qualified employees. She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2009. Goodyear fired her two months later.

At trial, the jury denied the plaintiff's claims of harassment and discrimination, but found in her favor on a claim of retaliatory firing. She was awarded $450,000 in damages. Goodyear appealed on the theory that North Carolina law required cases of this type to be filed in the state Industrial Commission instead of civil court.

The appellate court agreed, overturning the verdict. The appellate judge also noted that the plaintiff did not prove that the supervisor's conduct was sexual or physically threatening.

The plaintiff's attorney said they will likely appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

Source: Fayetteville Observer, "Court overturns $450,000 verdict for Goodyear Tire worker who claimed harassment, retaliation at Fayetteville plant," Paul Woolverston, Jan. 16, 2013

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