MIAMI,Florida (PRWEB) October 19, 2012
Attorneys Pelayo Duran, Roderick Hannah and Gonzalo Dorta successfully proved in Miami-Dade Circuit Court that a former Caterpillar Logistics Services employee suffered severe workplace harassment and retaliation after he filed legitimate worker’s compensation claims (Case Number: 09-89750-CA-01). Lawyers representing Rudolf Amaya of Miami sought damages for violation of Florida’s Whistleblower’s Act and for unlawful retaliation for filing legitimate workers’ compensation claims. After a two-week trial, the jury awarded the following to the plaintiff, totaling more than $600,000: $79,280 for back pay and lost benefits and $537, 846 for future lost wages and benefits.
“We are very pleased with the jury verdict and we are satisfied that justice was finally served after so much delay,” said Duran. “Mr. Amaya will have to cope with the severe emotional and physical injuries for the rest of his life. I hope this case sends a loud and clear message to big business that harassment and retaliation in the workplace should not be tolerated, not matter the size of the company.”
Caterpillar is the world’s largest construction equipment maker with recorded profits of $4.9 billion in 2011. Amaya said the incident initially took place at the Caterpillar Logistics Center in Miami Lakes, Fla. where his internal complaints of mistreatment and retaliation escalated to Caterpillar’s national Human Resources department, where his cries for help were buried. The complaint originally also named Amaya’s immediate supervisor, Luis A. Gaston, and a former Human Resources manager, Carol McCartney, as defendants.
“The jury award is a vindication of Mr. Amaya’s repeated efforts to internally seek the help of Caterpillar to solve what was blatant harassment and retaliation,” said Hannah. “He had no choice but to turn to the courts for help and it was the jury, not Caterpillar, who finally came to Mr. Amaya’s rescue.”
The entire case stems from an on-the-job injury Amaya suffered, specifically to the lumbar region of his back, and to his right elbow, right forearm, fingers of his left hand, and his right knee. His lawyers say he filed for worker’s compensation benefits after seeking medical attention.
According to the lawsuit, Amaya refused to sign paperwork that included a document requesting him to waive his rights to make a claim against the company and to accept full responsibility for his injuries. As a result, Caterpillar informed him that he would be suspended without pay, the maximum punishment short of termination permitted by the company ‘s disciplinary policy.
Attorneys said Amaya was then called back to work a few days later, although the doctor informed him that he was in worse physical condition and should limit strenuous activity. The lawsuit claims Caterpillar managers failed to follow Amaya’s doctor’s ordered restrictions and falsely accused him of violations of company policies, over-scrutinized his work, and reprimanded him for petty matters.
According to the lawsuit, Amaya complained to Ms. McCartney who was then head of Caterpillar’s human resources department in Miami Lakes; however, the harassment continued and intensified. During that time, Amaya learned that he had suffered a herniated disc in his lumbar region, a tearing of the meniscus of his right knee, and a tearing of the ligament in his right elbow, his attorneys said. When he requested that his physician ordered restrictions be followed, the light duty job assigned to him by members of Caterpillar’s management was to sweep with a hand broom thick dust that had accumulated in the warehouse for many years, without adequate protection and safety equipment. Despite the fact that he informed them that he was allergic to the dust, Amaya was told to either produce a doctor’s note or do the job to avoid being fired. He continued to perform the job for another week before he was cleared to see a company workers’ compensation physician.
As a result of his continued exposure to breathing the dust, Amaya suffered a second on-the-job injury and was diagnosed with various allergic and upper respiratory ailments, his attorneys said.
As a result of filing a second workers’ compensation claim, the retaliation only intensified, according to court documents. Amaya filed another internal complaint of retaliation and harassment with the Caterpillar’s corporate human resources department through the company’s helpline, and the matter was admittedly never properly investigated, the attorneys said. Indeed, Caterpillar’s corporate human resources manager in Illinois testified under oath that he deliberately violated Caterpillar’s own anti-retaliation policy to investigate all internal employee complaints by refusing to investigate Amaya’s complaints.
Attorneys said Amaya was eventually told that he was “indefinitely suspended.” After being ordered off the Caterpillar premises, Amaya suffered a panic attack and was transported by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue to Palmetto Hospital.
Based in Miami, Florida, The Law Office of Pelayo Duran represents clients in employment discrimination, personal injury, medical malpractice, products liability, bankruptcy and finance, criminal law, and traffic law. To learn more about the firm, visit http://www.pelayoduran.com or call 305-266-9780.