Award in job-bias suit cut

Appeal-Democrat, California/August 20, 2008

A federal judge reduced from $6.5 million to $1.2 million the amount awarded by a federal jury to a woman who said she lost a job promotion because she wasn't a Fellowship of Friends member.

Kelly Services - where Lynn Noyes, 59, worked in software development at its Nevada City office - had argued the multi-million judgment in April was excessive and unconstitutional.

Federal Judge Garland E. Burrell, Jr. in his July 25 decision reducing the jury award wrote that "while Kelly's behavior was sufficiently reprehensible to warrant punitive damages, it was not highly egregious."

"Noyes still had a secure position at Kelly that supported her livelihood," the judge wrote.

Kelly Services declined to respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

Catherine Jones, the attorney who represented Noyes in the trial in federal court in Sacramento, said she plans to appeal the judge's decision reducing the verdict. The appeal to the San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is expected to take about two years, said Jones, who has been working on the case since 2002.

An Aug. 1 ruling by Burrell awards Jones attorney's fees and expenses totaling $765,972.

Noyes said the office manager in Nevada City, along with the person promoted to the software manager job that Noyes sought, and many co-workers were members of the Yuba County-based Fellowship of Friends. Noyes said the office manger gave good jobs to Fellowship members.

The human resources manager for the Nevada City office testified during the federal trial that she was told about pressure to hire a Fellowship member.

The Fellowship was not named in the federal lawsuit.

Noyes worked for Kelley for a decade beginning in 1994.

A federal court ruling describes the Fellowship as "a small religious group," and notes the Fellowship characterizes itself as a "way of life."

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