In a recent verdict, a San Francisco jury held Marriott International, Inc. accountable for failing to accommodate a long time employee’s disability. The jury awarded the employee, Daniel Callahan, a total of $20 million, including $5 million in non-economic damages and $15 million in punitive damages.
Lead trial lawyer for Mr. Callahan, David deRubertis, stated, “This intelligent, diligent and hard-working jury saw through Marriott’s bogus attacks on Mr. Callahan, who was a great employee for decades.” Marriott was accused of denying necessary accommodations to Callahan, who had served as a concierge for the San Francisco Marquis Marriott for nearly 30 years.
Callahan, who suffered a spinal cord injury in 2014, returned to work in 2015 as a walking paraplegic. His job duties were still manageable, but he required specific accommodations, notably the ability to alternate between sitting and standing while working.
Marriott accommodated this medical work restriction without issues until 2019 when a renovation resulted in a workstation that did not allow sitting. Despite efforts by Callahan and his physicians to modify the workstation, Marriott refused. Callahan continued to work until September 2019, when increasing pain led to the determination that he was no longer medically cleared to work.
Marriott defended itself by noting that Callahan’s concierge position was eliminated in 2020 due to COVID layoffs. The jury’s verdict sends a clear message about the importance of accommodating disabled workers. deRubertis emphasized, “The jury’s message was clear: Treat disabled workers properly, and provide them simple accommodations when needed, or you will have to answer to a jury.”
Mr. Callahan was represented by David M. deRubertis of The deRubertis Law Firm, APC in Beverly Hills, CA, Susan Rubenstein of The Law Offices of Susan Rubenstein in San Francisco, CA, and Patrice L. Goldman of San Rafael, CA.