A jury in New Brunswick has awarded a Flemington man $1 million in compensatory damages after finding that his bosses at United Parcel Service illegally retaliated against him because he complained about possible fraud in the company's northern New Jersey district.
Michael Battaglia, 51, was demoted from his position as a manager to a supervisor and assigned to the night shift after lodging his complaints in October 2005, according to the law suit he brought against UPS. Battaglia still works for the company.
Following a month-long trial before Superior Court Judge Phillip Paley, the jury awarded Battaglia $500,000 for his economic losses and $500,000 for emotional distress on Friday.
The jury found UPS violated both New Jersey anti-discrimination laws and laws prohibiting retaliation against whistle-blowers.
The eight-person jury returned to the courtroom today and decided Battaglia was not entitled to any punitive damages.
Battaglia's attorney, Maureen Binetti of Woodbridge, said Battaglia was told by his bosses if he reported the alleged fraud "we're coming after you."
"You have to send a message to UPS that that will not be tolerated," Binetti said to the judge. "Mike gave 20 years of his life to UPS and is still doing that job. Nothing has changed. He'll never be promoted."
Battaglia protested that managers were doing things that he thought violated UPS policies, including misuse of corporate credit cards and making derogatory comments about women, according Binetti.
He also filed a complaint about the fraudulent credit card use on a special complaint hotline UPS had established.
Binnetti said in retaliation, the managers "set him up and subjected him to a sham investigation" claiming he had leaked information from a manager's meeting that wasn't supposed to be revealed. He was demoted to supervisor, put on the night shift and put in charge of training new employees.
"The people at the highest level of this district were involved in this retaliation," Binetti told the jury today. "Not one witness who did this (took the actions against Battaglia) expressed remorse, only utter contempt for Mr. Battaglia as if he was the scum of the earth and made all of this up."
Michael Bissinger of Florham Park, the attorney who represented UPS, that UPS "has accepted responsibility in this case."
"Several people made decisions and you found that those decisions were wrong and illegal," Bissinger told the jury today. "They are just managers and supervisors. UPS is not the evil empire. This is a good company that does good things. People make mistakes."
Binetti said she expects UPS will appeal the jury's $1 million award.
She said the lawsuit was filed in Middlesex County because UPS has operations in the county.