WASHINGTON - A jury in U.S. District Court here has ordered the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to pay $350,000 to an employee who claimed her supervisor retaliated after she had filed a sex discrimination complaint.
The FDIC's tab is expected to top $500,000 once attorney's fees, three years of back pay, and benefits are tacked on to the compensatory damages awarded by the jury.
The six-day trial pitted the employee, Massoumeh Nyman, chief of the agency's call report analysis unit, against Michael A. Hovan, an associate director of bank supervision.
In addition to the retaliation finding, the jury in less than five hours of deliberation Tuesday found the FDIC guilty of paying Ms. Nyman less than it pays men doing similar jobs.
The eight-person jury did not find that the FDIC discriminated against Ms. Nyman because she is a woman.
"This is a good strong verdict," said Ms. Nyman's lawyer, Douglas B. Huron, with Kator, Scott & Heller here. "This compensation is large and it is fair."
FDIC spokesman David Barr said the agency would not appeal the case. Agency officials are still reviewing what action, if any, to take against Mr. Hovan, he said, adding: "We are gratified that the jury found that there wasn't any sex discrimination."
Ms. Nyman was back at work Wednesday.
"I'm glad it's over," she said of her legal battle. "I want to leave it behind me and start all over again - the second 20 years."
Ms. Nyman, who began working at the FDIC in 1976, was made chief of the call reports analysis unit in 1985. She applied for a promotion in 1990, but was denied. She then filed a sex discrimination complaint with the agency's office of equal employment opportunity.
In March 1992, her complaint was dismissed. After that, Ms. Nyman alleged that Mr. Hovan began a campaign of retaliation against her that included downgrading a previously completed performance review.
Ms. Nyman filed a second complaint, which enraged Mr. Hovan, according to the lawsuit. The suit said that when an equal employment opportunity counselor interviewed Mr. Hovan, he said: "If she pushes against a needle, she will draw blood."
Mr. Hovan, a 30-year agency veteran, was out of the office Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
Ms. Nyman's immediate supervisor, Henry Newport, testified on her behalf about his plans to upgrade the call reports analysis unit to a section, which would have nudged Ms. Nyman's government ranking to GS-15. Mr. Hovan nixed the plan in July 1992, Mr. Newport testified.
In November 1992, Mr. Newport recommended a merit pay increase for Ms. Nyman that Mr. Hovan denied it. He asked Mr. Newport to sign a letter reprimanding Ms. Nyman, according to court documents. Mr. Newport reportedly refused, and Mr. Hovan stripped him of his job responsibilities. The next day Mr. Hovan was said to have told Mr. Newport that "the corporation had carried me for 12 years because I'm a minority."
Mr. Newport was transferred to another division, and Ms. Nyman never received another performance evaluation although the FDIC requires all employees to be reviewed annually. She sued the agency in December 1992.
By early 1993, Ms. Nyman's doctor testified she was suffering from hypertension and was in danger of having a stroke. Various tussles took place between Ms. Nyman and Mr. Hovan that year and she took a leave from the FDIC in April 1994 that lasted 14 months.
The jury decision Tuesday marked the fourth case the FDIC has lost to its employees. The biggest judgment against the agency came in 1986, when 16 black examiners won $1 million in a race discrimination class-action suit.
The agency lost roughly $200,000 in a 1989 age discrimination case and another $200,000 in a 1987 wrongful discharge case. The FDIC has 21 lawsuits pending filed by employees.