Discriminatory Practices and Retaliation Result in Large Verdict
An Austin, Texas, software salesman was awarded $11.6 million on May 7, 2014, for wrongful termination following a highly contentious two week trial. Michael Mercieca, a 17-year veteran of Microsoft, proved that he was wrongfully discharged and that Microsoft engaged in discriminatory practices with malice and reckless indifference.
The case involved Mercieca’s manager, Regional Sales Director Lori Aulds — his ex-girlfriend — who vengefully conspired with top management and a female outside contractor to force him out of his job.
Mercieca was a senior sales rep in the Austin who sold OEM software to businesses in Texas.
At age 50, he was a single dad who “lived, breathed and died” Microsoft, according to his attorney. Regional Sales Director Lori Aulds, with whom he had a prior sexual relationship, began scheming to force him out of his job after she was promoted over him. He was marginalized, isolated and excluded from customer events.
Mercieca ultimately filed an internal complaint against his ex-girlfriend manager, her supervisor National Sales Director David Tannebaum and the vice president of the OEM team, Eddie O’Brien. Two weeks later, his manager conspired with an outside contractor, Tracy Rummel, who filed a trumped-up sexual harassment complaint against him in 2009. Rummel also claimed that Mercieca retaliated against her by removing her as a marketing consultant from the Bass Computer account. At trial, Mercieca proved that the charges by Rummel were false, yet, Mercieca continued to get negative evaluations for his job performance.
In September 2010, the internal investigations found both Mercieca’s complaint and the sexual harassment complaint to be unsupported. However his manager got a promotion. In contrast, Mercieca’s new manager gave him a “5″ in his performance review — the worst possible grade — even though Mercieca met all his sales goals and earned millions for Microsoft. It came out at the trial that the new manager wanted to give him a better review, but upper management pressured him to give a 5. Mercieca filed a defamation suit against Tracy Rummel in 2011, also charging Microsoft with wrongful discharge. He was forced to work from home and eventually resigned in 2012.
The total amount awarded by the jury is $11,623,064.24. The case is Michael Mercieca v. Tracy Rummel and Microsoft Corporation, No. D-1-GN-11-001030, District Court of 353rd Judicial District, Travis County, Texas.
Source: Larry Bodine, Microsoft Hit with $11.6M Verdict for Wrongful Termination of Star Salesman, The National Trial Lawyers, http://www.thenationaltriallawyers.org/2014/05/5865/, May 9, 2014.