Knox v. PPG Industries
Date of Verdict: Oct. 3, 2018.
Court and Case No.: U.S. Dist. Court, W.D. of Pa. No. 2:15-cv-01434.
Judge: William Wilson.
Type of Action: Civil rights, employment.
Injuries: Psychological, emotional distress.
Plaintiffs Counsel: Bruce C. Fox, Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel, Pittsburgh.
Defense Counsel: Allison R. Brown, Littler Mendelson, Pittsburgh.
On July 29, 2013, plaintiff Carol Knox, 49, was terminated from her job as a senior research associate with Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries.
Knox sued PPG Industries for alleged unlawful sex-based termination under Title VII and the Pittsburgh Human Relations Act. Knox also asserted a claim for unlawful sex-based pay discrimination under Title VII and the PHRA.
Knox began her employment with PPG Industries in 1990. PPG Industries is a Fortune 500 company and global supplier of paints, coatings and specialty materials. Knox was employed as a research scientist and project leader at the time of her termination. Knox claimed that at the time of her termination she was the only woman working in her division.
Knox alleged her troubles began in or around June 2010 when her supervisor retired and was replaced by Truman Wilt. Knox alleged Wilt told her during her first meeting with him that he was "uncomfortable around women" and then said, "I had a girl work for me before and she went into business, I think women are better suited in business, you should think about going into business."
Knox further alleged that during the period of Wilt's supervision, Wilt directed sexist remarks toward her, such as, "Women are usually liberal tree hugging democrats," and called one of her projects a "woman's project," and routinely referred to the adult professional women as "girls." Knox alleged that Wilt wanted to get rid of her and replace her with a man.
Knox also alleged that she was paid less than her male colleagues for comparable work. She also claimed that Wilt gave her average reviews in her performance reviews, and that she received above average reviews consistently prior to Wilt becoming her boss.
PPG denied all of Knox's allegations. Instead, PPG argued Knox was terminated for circulating emails of two direct reports containing photographs of them that intimated they were having a romantic relationship in violation of company policy. PPG argued that it conducted an IT investigation and discovered evidence that indicated that Knox had access to the images on her computer. PPG argued that its IT security director searched the computers of Knox's subordinates, Jim Boyer, a manager, and his female subordinate, Christine Gardner, and found a folder in Knox's Outlook mailbox titled "Christine Gardner." PPG argued that evidence uncovered in the IT investigation suggested that Knox sent the email to several co-workers, and that it was Knox's intent to damage the reputation of Boyer, who was allegedly having an extramarital affair with Gardner.
Knox claimed she later found employment with Bayer Material Science at half the salary she made at PPG Industries. Knox claimed the termination had a severe negative impact on her career. Knox claimed she suffered emotional distress. Knox sought to recover damages for lost earnings and benefits. She also sought damages for emotional distress, and pain and suffering. She claimed the termination damaged her reputation. She claimed she received multiple awards and promotions during her career with PPG, as evidence of her sterling work with PPG prior to her discharge.
PPG argued that Knox did not deserve damages because it did nothing wrong.
The jury found the PPG terminated Knox on the basis of her sex and gender. The jury awarded Knox $2,970,000.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs counsel. Additional information was gleaned from court documents. Defense counsel did not respond to calls for comment.
—This report first appeared in VerdictSearch, an ALM publication.