After a three-year legal battle, plaintiff Michael Mercieca finally emerged victorious in his lawsuit against Microsoft Corporation (Michael Mercieca v. Tracy Rummel and Microsoft Corporation, No. D-1-GN-11-001030, District Court of 353rd Judicial District, Travis County, Texas). According to KTBC Fox 7 Television* (5/12/14), Mercieca was awarded $11.6 million, however, given a $300,000 cap observed by the state of Texas for such awards, it is doubtful Mercieca will collect much more than $1 million at the end of the day, when all back pay and benefits are factored in. KTBC also reported that Microsoft indicated it will appeal. * According to an interview with LawyersandSettlements.com** (5/23/14), attorney Roy Pollack shared that “What’s important to the plaintiff, however, is the opportunity to clear his name.”
“This was very real,” said Pollack, one-half of the plaintiff’s two-man legal team, in comments to LawyersandSettlements.com writer Brenda Craig. “Michael comes from humble beginnings, he’s a self-made man and Microsoft was his family. He lived and died for this company. He gave his heart and soul to Microsoft.” ***
According to court documents, Mercieca was a star performer for Microsoft, consistently achieving budgets and earning awards and accolades. The trouble started, however, when a romantic relationship with a co-worker ended. Court heard that the plaintiff initiated the breakup. Soon after, Mercieca’s former romantic partner was promoted to a position of authority over the plaintiff, and the trouble began.
Court documents show the plaintiff testified that various retaliatory measures were enacted against him, including a cut to his expense budgets and promotions that were his due, subsequently denied him. Additionally, Mercieca, a single father to a 14-year-old, was ostracized from important meetings and the overall corporate culture at large. The plaintiff was eventually accused of harassing another employee, an accusation that was alleged to have been manufactured in an effort to prompt Mercieca to leave the company.
According to court documents, after months of ill treatment, Mercieca filed a formal complaint with the Human Resources (HR) department of Microsoft. But the alleged abuse only escalated further. After 16 months of alleged abuse, which included a demotion, Mercieca accused his employer of constructive termination and filed a lawsuit, in 2011, alleging wrongful dismissal. He also brought a defamation suit against the supervisor who falsely accused him of sexual harassment. According to KTBC Fox 7, he remained an employee of Microsoft at the time, but worked from home. * He eventually resigned in 2012.
“This is a more subtle kind of workplace discrimination,” said Pollack. “In some ways racial discrimination or gender discrimination are more obvious than corporate bullying. It happens behind the scenes and the corporate infrastructure makes it easier to get away with. Usually victims just walk away. They don’t have the drive or finances to go to court.”
Taking on Microsoft was a daunting challenge. “We were traveling all over the country taking depositions,” says Pollack. “We were on the east coast, the west coast ??" it was a lot of leg work,” says Pollack, noting there were some 90,000 documents involved in the case.
California psychologist, Paul G. Mattiuzzi spoke of the toll such cases can have on an individual, in comments articulated to LawyersandSettlements.com’s Brenda Craig. ***
“Filing a retaliation lawsuit is exceedingly difficult, especially against a large corporation,” says Dr. Mattiuzzi. “I think what devastates people most is the fact that they are fighting their employer. This is someone they have trusted, been loyal to and suddenly the employer turns on them. They say you’re a bad employee. You’re a whiner, a complainer and these complaints are nonsense. That’s what hurts.”
“The sad thing is that Microsoft had a guy that would have worked for them until he was 70 years old with a smile on his face and towing the company line all the way,” adds Pollack.
During an interview with the plaintiff aired on KTBC FOX 7 following the verdict, Mercieca revealed he was bullied as a child. *
In the fall of 2011, following the issuance of the lawsuit against Microsoft, The Telegraph sought a statement from Microsoft. The software giant declined comment, citing the inappropriateness of addressing an active litigation. However, beyond “vigorously contesting these unproven allegations,” the Fortune 100 company added that “Microsoft places great importance and focus on creating and maintaining a culture based on our core company values. These values include being open and respectful and fostering an environment that respects diversity and inclusion of all employees.” ***
The jury award to plaintiff Michael Mercieca at 353rd Civil District Court in Travis County on May 7th, suggests in this case, in the jury’s view, those core values were not met.
The case is Michael Mercieca v. Tracy Rummel and Microsoft Corporation, Case No. D-1-GN-11-001030, District Court of 353rd Judicial District, Travis County, Texas.
Local man wins lawsuit against Microsoft, KTBC Fox 7 Television, May 12, 2014, http://www.myfoxaustin.com/story/25470722/local-man-wins-lawsuit-against-microsoft
**Bullied Microsoft Employee Gave his “Heart and Soul” to the Company, LawyersandSettlements.com. May 23, 2014 https://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/texas-employment-labor-law/interview-texas-employment-labor-law-19809.html
*** Microsoft in new row over sexual harassment, The Telegraph, November 13, 2011, https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/Microsoft-new-row-sexual-tele-937533497.html
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