Woman awarded $600K in discrimination lawsuit
Feb 21, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Jurors hugged an Odessa woman who sued UPS for gender discrimination after two days of testimony that included lewd phrases directed at her.
Amber Ibarra claimed she was fired from UPS after being harassed because of her gender, and won $600,000 in a federal civil trial this week.
She now works for FedEx.
Ibarra worked with the Odessa UPS package center from June 1996 until July 2009 and said in a federal lawsuit that her supervisors and coworkers made offensive comments and discriminated against her because she was a woman, leading up to her firing.
Brian Carney, one of Ibarra's attorneys along with Holly Williams, said in an interview that she worked her way up to be the only full-time woman driver at the facility, while fellow drivers made disparaging remarks about women being inferior to men.
"During that period, they had this kind of environment there where they made derogatory remarks about women," he said. "She performed the job. No one had a complaint from UPS about how she did her job. No matter how they tried to run her off, she did what they asked her to do."
Specifically, according to the federal complaint, Ibarra was routinely expected to make more deliveries than the male drivers and was ordered to deliver six 100-pound packages while pregnant that her manager "saved" for her.
It was when Ibarra was involved in an accident on June 23, 2009, when her vehicle struck a utility pole that her performance was scrutinized and she was ultimately fired, according to the complaint.
No one attempted to see if the truck was drivable, according to the complaint, and several other drivers had been in accidents worse than hers but had not been fired, including several accidents involving fatalities.
Carney said the attorneys for UPS first said the appeals process out of the Midland/Odessa area did not reinstate her in defense of the dismissal.
The next defense, Carney said, was that the accident was the cause for her firing. Finally, he said, UPS attorneys argued that had they not fired her for the accident, they would have dismissed her for taking her personnel file without permission.
"It provides some closure and some vindication to what she's been doing for the last four years," Carney said.
The judge can still award Ibarra money she would have earned continuing to work at the business, Carney said, but has not yet made a ruling on that issue.
After the trial, Carney said jurors asked Judge Harry Lee Hudspeth if they could hug Ibarra.
The judge allowed them to after they were dismissed, Carney said, and all but one juror spoke with and hugged Ibarra after the trial.
Attorneys for UPS did not return a call for comment Thursday afternoon.
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