The attorney for Crystal Eschert, the former fire investigator who was awarded $1.5 million in a retaliation case against the city of Charlotte, has asked that part of her damages be tripled, raising her total damages to $2.4 million.
U.S. Chief District Judge Frank Whitney on Friday upheld a jury’s verdict from early May that awarded Eschert $1.5 million.
The jury sided with Eschert, who said the city fired her because she complained about the quality and safety of renovations at a building being renovated on North Graham Street that now houses arson investigators.
The city said that wasn’t true, and that Eschert was fired for what it said was an offensive Facebook post that discussed the riots in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. Eschert’s attorney, Meg Maloney, claimed that city had created a fake internet persona of someone who complained about the post, and that the post was an excuse to retaliate against her.
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The jury awarded Eschert $1.5 million based on her winning on four questions related to the case.
In a court filing last week, Maloney argues that the court should triple one of the awards of $464,538 under the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act. The act was passed in the 1990s to discourage employers from retaliating against whistleblowers, and it can allow judges to triple damages.
In her motion, Maloney wrote, “Rarely is there a case where the whistleblower is identified as the whistleblower using that very word, prior to the decision to terminate their employment.”
She added that Eschert “presented substantial evidence that (the city’s) reason for terminating her was not believable but was a cover-up for retaliation because of her REDA protected activity.”
The city hopes that Whitney will lower the damages the jury awarded. It’s possible the city could also appeal the decision, though the City Council and Mayor Jennifer Roberts would likely have to approve that decision.