Caltrans received a very special Halloween treat yesterday when a Los Angeles jury awarded employee Tony Brake, a 50-year old bridge engineer and first-line supervisor, over $570,000 in economic and emotional distress damages after senior Caltrans employees subjected him to whistleblower retaliation after he reported (and refused to participate in) discrimination against another employee.
According to the complaint, another Caltrans employee, Mehran Sajjadi, was transferred to Mr. Brake’s department in January 2010 after complaining of harassment and discrimination at the hands of his previous supervisor. After the transfer, a more senior Caltrans manager then allegedly ordered Mr. Brake to closely monitor Saijadi’s activities and then “set him up” to be fired. After Brake refused to fire Saijadi and reported the illegal activity, Caltrans began to punish Brake by doubling his workload and denying him a significant promotion as a means of retaliation.
Although still employed, Brake filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court, which held a jury trial that began on Monday October 21, 2013 before the Honorable Victor Chavez in Department 96. After an eight-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in Brake’s favor of $571,797 after unanimously determining that Caltrans had unlawfully retaliated against Brake for reporting illegal activity. Based on the evidence presented at trial, eleven of the twelve jurors also agreed that Brake would have gotten the promotion if not for Caltrans’ illegal whistleblower retaliation conduct.
Brake was represented by attorneys Rob Henning and Brandon Ruiz of The Law Offices of Rob Henning and attorney Robert Racine of Glendale, CA.
Image: California Department of Transportation