MANHATTAN (CN) – The Millennium Broadway Hotel in Times Square owes just about 10 percent of the $1.125 million penalty awarded after one of its employees lynched a voodoo doll in the workplace, a federal judge ruled.
Freddrick MacMillan, a black engineer who worked at the hotel for more than 20 years, took offense when his white supervisor Thomas Scudero brought “a number of voodoo dolls” with “black faces and pink lips” into his office in 2009.
He filed suit that year claiming that Scudero, the hotel’s regional property operations director, tacked one of the dolls onto the bulletin board of another white supervisor, Joseph Fariello, “by pinning a two inch-long string attached to the doll’s neck.”
MacMillan said he thought the dolls were about him and that he had complained when co-workers called him racial epithets in the past.
MacMillan told the court that he said to Scudero: “I hope those dolls ain’t about me,” and asked: “Should I be offended by these dolls?” Scudero allegedly replied that the dolls were “souvenirs for his staff.”
After a four-day trial in December, a jury rejected Scudero’s excuse and awarded MacMillion $115,000 in compensatory and $1 million in punitive damages.
Though U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe refused to change the jury’s findings, he reined in damages after finding that MacMillan suffered emotional distress of the “garden variety.”
“Here, plaintiff offered very little evidence of emotional distress,” the June 11 order states. “Indeed, MacMillan himself did not offer any testimony concerning his emotional distress, testifying only that working for Scudero in the engineering department had been ‘horrible.’ There is no evidence that MacMillan ever sought medical or psychological treatment, that he missed work, that he had any difficulty sleeping, that he lost his appetite, or that his alleged emotional distress had any physical manifestation or disrupted other aspects of his daily life. He remained at work throughout the period of alleged discriminatory acts.”
Gardephe warned that he would order a new trial on the question of damages if MacMillan did not accept the reduced award of $130,000.
On Monday, MacMillan’s attorney Darnley Stewart wrote the court that he was “pleased to report” that the parties “reached an agreement in principle to resolve the action and hope to have a draft agreement put together by the end of the week.”
The judge agreed to suspend his order until the agreement was finalized.
Editor’s Note: The plaintiff’s surname is spelled several times throughout the court filings as McMillan and MacMillan. Courthouse News used the MacMillan spelling to keep consistency with the docket.