Did this employer really sic attack dogs on a woman who complained about gender discrimination?

Military dog barking.JPG

Now, that would be some serious retaliation!

Where do I find these cases? The Illuminati I have my sources.

In Elmore v. WMATA (opinion here), the plaintiff, a K-9 police officer, injured her neck and back after a bunch of dog attacks. She claimed that the WMATA refused to call off its dogs — I’ll be here all week —  and intentionally inflicted these injuries upon her because she is a woman and because she previously had filed a gender discrimination complaint against her fellow officers.

Naturally, WMATA argued that, while Plaintiff was injured during a training exercise, it was just an accident, not due to discrimination or retaliation.

As, I’m reading this opinion, I’m thinking to myself does Trump Tower Grill really have the best taco bowls? that this is going to be a tough one for the plaintiff to prove. That’s because, absent direct evidence of discrimination, the plaintiff will have to overcome the defendant’s seemingly legitimate explanation (the injuries were accidental) by demonstrating pretext. How will she do that? Tell ’em Judge Mehta:

A reasonable jury could find that Ludwig and Haymans used the long-bite training to “get back” at Plaintiff. She had filed an EEOC complaint and engaged in other protected activities that, only months prior to the long-bite exercise, cast a black eye on the K-9 unit in general and Ludwig individually. A jury could infer that subjecting Plaintiff to additional dog attacks, despite her obvious distress after the first attack, was an effort to teach her a lesson. Such inference is not at all unreasonable, especially given that Haymans refused another unit member’s offer to replace Plaintiff as the decoy after the second attack.

The lesson here is that, as far-fetched — I’m on a roll here — as it may seem that a jury would conclude that an employer intentionally inflicted canine violence on a female employee because of  her gender and prior complaint of discrimination, you’ve got to weigh the risk and reward of litigating those claims versus early settlement. I don’t know what settlement discussions may have taken place before WMATA filed its motion for summary judgment to dispose of the case. Maybe, the plaintiff demanded the moon and the stars. Or, maybe the defendant viewed the case as a no-settle.

But, now the case is headed to trial. And, if a jury sides with the plaintiff, the award could be mind-blowingly large.

Even if, as the employer, you know that you did not discriminate or retaliate, these are some of the things that you need to weigh when there exists a reasonable anticipation of litigation.

 

Image Credit: By U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger – http://www.offutt.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/070417-F-7797P-001.JPG, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3874046
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