Jury Awards $5M in Anti-Smoking Suit
A Manhattan jury yesterday awarded more than $5 million to an employee fired from Elite Model Management for complaining about secondhand smoke.
The State Supreme Court jury, which last month found Elite subjected sales director Victoria Gallegos to "a hostile work environment" because of smoking in the office, awarded her $297,814 in back pay, $375,776 in future lost earnings, $2 million for pain and suffering and $2.6 million in punitive damages.
"We are very grateful to this jury for vindicating the rights of Ms. Gallegos and sending the message to employers: If they fail to acknowledge the legitimate health needs of employees, they do so at their own peril," Gallegos's attorney, Rosalind Fink, said.
Gallegos, 32, an asthmatic who said she suffered health problems as a result of the smoke, lost her $100,000-a-year sales job after the company retaliated against her for filing her complaint, the jury found.
Gallegos started working for Elite in September 1999 after working at Prada.