Protected Class Lawsuit

Contact Us
Meetings and Definitions
2016 Proclamations from California Cities
Articles of Interest - See Facebook
Resources for Bullied Targets
Order a Bullying Breaks Hearts Tee Shirt
Personal Stories
What it's like to be Bullied at Work
Under Seige
Workplace Mobbing
2015 Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week PROCLAMATIONS
2015 Articles of Interest
2015 National Progress on Healthy Workplace Bill
2014 Freedom From Workplace Bullying Week Proclamations
2014 Zogby Poll Results Released
2014 Links & Articles of Interest
In Fond Memory of a California Healthy Workplace Advocate 7/16/14
94 California Cities, Counties, and the California Senate Proclaim Freedom from Workplace Bullies 2013
Recapping National Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week 2012
59 California Cities Proclaim Freedom from Workplace Bullies 2012
Book for Employers
Healthy Workplace Legislative Bill History
Bullying Tactics and Consequences
Existing Law and its Shortcomings
Example of Protected Class
National Progress
The U.S. Campaign for Workplace Bullying Laws
Archived Articles Relevant to Workplace Bullying...2006-2010...
People have been talking
Healthy Workplace Bill
The High Cost of Bullying
Job Killer Myths
The Search is on... Find a Legislator
Contact Your Legislators
Peralta Community College District, Oakland
City of Berkeley, Commission on Labor
City of San Francisco Resolution
Level Playing Field

To learn more about this case, put the name "Vernetta Northcutt" into and read more about the cost to taxpayers and the consequences Ms. Northcutt is enduring.
To see what this school district is up to now, go to 8/25/09: "Remember this black eye at election time"...


Bullied Teacher Wins $225,000
Bully Principal and District Supporters Costs Employer Over $545,000 Total!

Teacher Settles Lawsuit with VCUSD for $225,000
By Sarah Rohrs and Kenneth Brooks
Vallejo (CA) Times-Herald
Feb. 13, 2006

A Vallejo (CA) High School teacher who sued State Administrator Richard Damelio and other district officials for alleged harassment, discrimination and retaliation has agreed to an out-of-court settlement.

In a court document signed Dec. 2, the Vallejo City Unified School District agreed to pay veteran teacher Vernetta Northcutt $225,000 stemming from emotional distress damages associated with the civil lawsuit.

The settlement was obtained through a written request to the school district.

The district also agreed to pay her regular salary through June 30, and pay on her behalf 10 years and six months of service to the California State Teachers' Retirement System. A 20-year teacher earns a base salary of $66,757, and a 23-year teacher, $68,528. The district pays 8.825 percent of her salary annually for retirement.

Further, the district agreed to pay Northcutt's health and welfare benefits for 10 years. Under the new health benefit cap that went into effect for employee groups this year, the district pays 80 percent of costs, which comes to $4,400 for a teacher with single coverage.

For her part, Northcutt agreed to be placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 17, and resign from her job. Under the settlement terms, she cannot seek employment in the school district. A confidentiality agreement prevents Northcutt and district officials from talking about the settlement. The confidentiality portion of the agreement allows the district to seek fines of $15,000 against Northcutt should she breach the clause. The agreement also restricts district officials from what they can say about why Northcutt left her position.

The settlement brings to an end a 3 1/2-year legal battle which has cost the school district $104,956 in legal fees, according to district records. Those legal fees are in addition to the December $225,000 settlement, plus $119,197 Northcutt received as a result of a 2004 arbitration award.

In her October civil lawsuit, Northcutt alleged district officials failed to honor a previous arbitration award and punished her for complaining.

She was seeking compensation for emotional distress and back wages denied when her sick leave was cut off, as well as punitive damages, civil penalties, and injunctions against harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

In February 2004, an arbitrator found that Vallejo High School Principal Phil Saroyan racially discriminated against Northcutt when he transferred her to another classroom. She received $70,000 for emotional distress, $41,322 in attorneys' fees and $7,875 in back pay. She was also reinstated to her previous teaching assignment.

The district appealed the award to the Solano County Superior Court where judges sided with Northcutt. An appeal of that ruling was pending in the state Court of Appeal when the settlement was signed.

Besides Damelio and Saroyan, the recent suit also named Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Rose Peppin, and Director of Compliance and Community Services Karen Hansen. In 2004, when the arbitrator originally ruled in Northcutt's favor, Assistant Superintendent Kevin Hanks told the Times-Herald that the arbitrator "overstepped her bounds," and that claims of racial discrimination by Saroyan were "unfounded."

In June 2002, Saroyan reassigned Northcutt, a 20-year district veteran with tenure, from 12th grade government and English to 10th grade world history, a grade and subject she had never taught before. The move violated the district's collective bargaining agreement. Northcutt alleged it was racially motivated.

In a 2004 interview with the Times-Herald, Northcutt said Saroyan gave her reasons for the original reassignment, including a high student failure rate. However, the arbitrator found her class had the second lowest failure rate in her department.

In the 2004 interview, Hanks acknowledged "there were concerns regarding complaints and the number of transfers in and out of her classroom." He added that Northcutt wasn't the only Vallejo High teacher reassigned that year.

Rather than uphold the arbitrator's award, Northcutt alleged that the district tried to demote her to a substitute teacher, and singled her out for her pursuit of discrimination claims.

Times-Herald reporter Matthias Gafni contributed to this report.

From WBTI (Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute) Do the math to see how much the bullying principal, two assistant district superintendents (including the HR person) and compliance director cost the district.

$119,957 -- 2004 arbitration won by Northcutt
$225,000 -- 2005 settlement won by Northcutt
$60,475 (est.) 10 years district contribution to her retirement
$35,200 (est.) 10 years health and welfare benefits for Northcutt
$104,956 -- district legal expenses, all designed to enable bullying without consequences

$545,588 the total expense for ONE bully principal and 3 supportive district personnel !!!

How much harm and expense does a bully have to inflict before the wise employer decides to end the bullying? It's not only the right thing to do, it's the fiscally responsible thing to do. There are likely other cases just like this in the District. The Vallejo School Board should demand accountability for these losses or lose their elected seats themselves.

While some state laws require schools to curb bullying among students, all states currently allow unscrupulous bullying administrators to attack teachers with impunity. Stopping student bullying stands no chance until the work environment in which student learning ostensibly takes place is purged of abusers.

*Please note:  While the above story is based on bullying due to racial discrimination, not all work abuse situations are.  It is a common misconception that bullying, discrimination, and harassment are already actionable (worthy of civil litigation) under present law.  Only racial or sexual discrimination are against the law.  Status-blind bullying is legal when targets are not bullied due to their membership in a protected class under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Amendment (race, color, sex, religion, or national origin).  In addition, present whistleblower laws are marginally effective.  In order for an individual to obtain legal representation as a bullied whistleblower, he or she often must be whistleblowing about millions of dollars in false claims against the state or federal government.  Otherwise, attorneys are not willing or able to pursue these very difficult cases, as the stakes are simply not worth the risk of their own financial investment in the pursuit. 

HWB_logo_affiliate.JPG - February 13, 2006