Chevron to Pay $5.5M to Former Employee

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Chevron to Pay $5.5M to Former Employee

SAN RAMON, Calif. -- Chevron Corp. was ordered to pay $5.5 million to a former employee, after a San Francisco federal court jury found the company liable for retaliation and wrongful termination, the East Bay Business Times reported.

The former employee, Kiran Pande, was fired in late 2003 after 15 years with the company, the Business Times reported. The three-week trial resulted from incidents between September 2000 and December 2003, where the jury found that Chevron retaliated against Pande after she complained about discrimination, and subsequently fired her for reasons that violated a public policy, the report stated.

However, the jury did not find Chevron guilty of interfering with Pande's right to medical leave, and awarded her approximately $3 million for past and future economic losses and $2.5 million in punitive damages, the report stated.

"We are disappointed with today's verdict and are focusing on post-trial motions and a possible appeal," Kent Robertson, media adviser for Chevron, told the paper in an e-mail statement. "Ms. Pande's decision not to move to Houston with her department as part of a corporate restructuring is understandable, and we respect her decision. However, in voluntarily electing not to relocate with the rest of her colleagues, Ms. Pande's decision led to her eventual severance."

He continued: "Chevron's human resources practices are well regarded. Earlier this year, the Women's Business Enterprise Council named Chevron one of the top U.S. corporations providing growth opportunities to women. The Human Rights Coalition has awarded Chevron a 100-percent rating in its Corporate Equality Index for our human resources policies and practices for three years running."

Pande was first hired as a research engineer in 1988, the report stated, citing her complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In fall 2000, she was transferred to a new position, which reported directly to Rex Mitchell, the company's chief compliance officer, according to the report.

In 2001, Pande was the subject of harassment and discrimination by Mitchell, according to her court complaint cited by the paper. Then, in March 2002, Pande complained to Mitchell's supervisor, James Johnson, who did not investigate, and rather, gave her three choices -- leave the company, leave the group, or stay for up to 18 months and get along with Mitchell, according to the complaint. Later, she filed a formal complaint against Mitchell with a company ombudsman, the report stated.

Following her complaint, Pande said she was the subject of retaliation, including being excluded from work-related meetings, according to the paper. In the spring of 2003, Pande elected not to relocate to Houston with her business unit, and transferred to what she considered was a lesser job within the company, the East Bay Business Times reported, citing the complaint.

She was notified in late 2003, while on medical leave, that Chevron was terminating her employment effective Dec. 31, 2003. In December 2003, Pande filed a complaint of discrimination with the California Department of Fair Employment and received a "right-to-sue" letter, the report stated.