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African-American paramedic's civil rights suit against employer and county
Thompson v. Mem'l Hosp. of Carbondale, 07-2249, concerned a challenge to the jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff on his Title VII and section 1981 claim and an award of $500,000 in damages, in an African-American paramedic's suit against his former employer and a county ambulance service, alleging racial discrimination in violation of Title VII and section 42 U.S.C. section 1981, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge claims.
In affirming in part, the courtrejected plaintiff's cross appeal of the district court's grant of summary judgment against him on his claims of hostile work environment and constructive termination, as the circumstances here did not rise to those levels. The court also held that, because the employer knew before trial that whether the employer and plaintiff had a contractual relationship was a factual question but did not raise the issue at trial, district court's judgment on plaintiff's section 1981 claim is affirmed. Further, a jury could have drawn the inference that the emergency medical system coordinator had a singular influence on the probation decision, so the admission of her racial animus was not an abuse of discretion. Lastly, in light of the fact that the employer did not argue to the jury that plaintiff had failed to suffer materially adverse employment action, its request to set aside the verdict on this basis is denied. However, the court vacated the damages and remanded in concluding that a remittitur of the $500,000 verdict to $250,000 is warranted as the award is excessive in light of the circumstances, including that plaintiff was placed on probation with no change to his compensation and the nature of his emotional distress, which although not to be discounted, does not warrant a half-million dollar award.