Huge award in job bias case

Plaintiff's lawyer: $6.5 million ruling against Kelly

The Appeal-Democrat, Yuba City California/April 4, 2008

Lynn Noyes, who said the Nevada City office of Kelly Services denied her a promotion because she wasn't a member of the Yuba County-based Fellowship of Friends, was awarded $6.5 million Friday in her employment discrimination lawsuit against Kelly, Noyes' attorney said.

Noyes, 59, had wept Thursday after her attorney M. Catherine Jones told jurors in federal court in Sacramento during closing arguments about promotions, pay raises and jobs said to have gone to Fellowship members. Noyes did not want to comment immediately on the Friday verdict, Jones said.

"She's too emotional," the attorney said of Noyes.

Noyes had said about 90 minutes before the verdict that she wished she'd settled the case rather than gone to trial, Jones recounted.

"She just thought, 'This is too hard,'" Jones said of Noyes seven-year legal fight. "She had to go up against a big corporation."

Before trial, Noyes had sought $1.2 million to settle the case - involving her losing a promotion to software development manager in 2001 - but Jones said the most Kelly offered was $300,000.

Kelly Services provides temporary workers.

Jones said the jury in the U.S. District Court case deliberated for about three hours before returning with the multimillion dollar verdict.

Jones had told jurors that Michigan-based Kelly Services "needs to be punished" for its indifference to Noyes workplace rights in Nevada City. The office manager, along with the person named to the software manager job, and many of Noyes' co-workers in Nevada City were Fellowship members, Jones said.

"Maybe now Kelly Services will finally pay attention," Jones said after the verdict.

Daniel T. Lis, general counsel for Kelly Services, said in a written statement Friday that the "decision was made in error with respect to both the law and facts in this case. Kelly Services has a policy and history of not discriminating against its employees, and Kelly did not discriminate against Lynn Noyes."

The case includes a significant number of grounds for appeal and Kelly will do so, Lis said. Kelly employs more than 750,000 people and hires and promotes individuals of many backgrounds and beliefs, the attorney said.

Noyes did not name the Fellowship in her case.

Abraham Goldman, the attorney for the Fellowship, said of the case, "It didn't involve us. We never even got a subpoena."

Goldman said Jones "must have done a hell of a job to get a verdict that size."

Jones said that Noyes "never had anything against Fellowship members."

"Many of them are quite nice," Jones said. "Generally, I don't think people know of the group."

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2007 ruling reversing a Sacramento federal court's dismissal of the case, describes the Fellowship as "a small religious group," and notes the Fellowship characterizes itself as a "way of life."

About 2,000 people are members, according to the federal court ruling, and about one-third live on Fellowship-owned property in the Oregon House area.

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