For the second time in two years, a federal judge in Baton Rouge has significantly reduced a jury’s $500,000 award against Shaw Coastal Inc. in the same sexual harassment case.
The decision will, for the second time, be taken to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an effort to restore the full award to former Shaw Coastal employee John Cherry, his attorney, Jill L. Craft, said Thursday.
“There’s no reason for it,” Craft said of U.S. District Judge James J. Brady’s decision Wednesday to strip $450,000 from Cherry’s jury award.
Gentry Brann, director of communications and marketing for The Shaw Group, corporate parent of Shaw Coastal, said: “We are pleased that Judge Brady has reduced the damage award to reflect the lack of evidence of any damage to Mr. Cherry.”
Brann also said, “Shaw is committed to a workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment, and intends to continue to vigorously defend this matter.”
In August 2010, Brady erased all of the jury’s $500,000 award in favor of Cherry. Brady also reduced a $10,000 award against former Shaw Coastal supervisor Michael Reasoner to $1,800.
Both Cherry and Reasoner maintained at trial that they are heterosexual.
Cherry asked a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit to reinstate the jury’s award of $500,000 to him, and the panel did that in March.
Circuit Judges W. Eugene Davis, of Lafayette, Carl E. Stewart, of Shreveport, and Patrick E. Higginbotham, of Austin, Texas, said evidence showed, “Cherry was sexually harassed and that his employer failed to promptly respond to the harassment.”
Brady complied with the 5th Circuit’s directive to reinstate the $500,000 award.
Shaw Coastal responded by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court while also asking Brady either for a new trial on the entire case or a reduction of the jury award to $1,800.
Last month, the Supreme Court declined to consider Shaw Coastal’s appeal.
On Wednesday, Brady denied Shaw Coastal’s request for a new trial on the entire case, but he reduced the jury’s award to Cherry by $450,000.
The judge added: “John Cherry shall have 15 days to advise … whether he will accept” $50,000.
If not, Brady said he would “order a new trial solely on the issue of damages sustained by Cherry.”
“While I respect the court’s judgment, I don’t agree with it in this case,” Craft said, before adding she will take the dispute back to the 5th Circuit.