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Jury awards $1.3 million in Union Pacific sexual discrimination case

(The following story by Diane Stafford appeared on the Kansas City Star website on October 29, 2009.)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A jury on Wednesday awarded more than $1.3 million in a sex discrimination and retaliation case brought against Union Pacific Railroad in Kansas City.

The Jackson County Circuit Court jury, composed of nine women and three men, decided that Serena Eickhoff, a former locomotive shop foreman for the railroad, had been harassed and wrongly fired.

The three-week jury trial ended with an award of $120,000 in actual damages and $1.27 million in punitive damages.

Dennis Egan, one of the attorneys for the plaintiff, said Eickhoff alleged that she was verbally harassed and accosted by her subordinates and supervisors.

The jury found that the complaint and the testimony at trial showed a pattern of sexually hostile language and behavior was directed at Eickhoff.

After she complained, the company retaliated by placing her on probation and, later, firing her without sufficient cause, without taking any action against her male co-workers, the complaint alleged.

Eickhoff had worked for the railroad for nine years and was the only female foreman in the railroad’s Kansas City facility.

Anthony Byergo, an attorney for Union Pacific, said that “beyond noting that the company is reviewing its options, we have no further comment.”

Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs reserves the right to award future damages or order Eickhoff’s reinstatement to the job.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

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