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First Woman to Win a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against a Top US Refinery in Federal Court

On Behalf of | Aug 9, 2019 | Articles

Ciara Newton, a Shell refinery employee based in California, was fired from her position at the refinery after being subjected to sexual harassment for several months.

She endured everything from lewd stickers on her desk, two male supervisors making sexist comments, and reprimands for having documented her co-workers’ mistakes.

Unfair Termination Left Newton Devastated

Newton received the unfair termination notice a few days before the nine-month probation period of her job was about to end. As expected, Newton was devastated by the fallout.

She quickly spiraled into depression fueled by her inability to secure the loan she needed to buy her mother’s house and harrowing experience she had to go through at her workplace.

Newton started struggling with anxiety, while she looked for a new job. She ended up working for an airline company for half the pay which was situated two hours away from her home.

The Lawsuit Was Tough

Newton finally decided to hold Shell accountable for her misery and filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company. Shell’s legal defense team leveled multiple accusations against Newton throughout the trial, but Newton did not flinch even once and refused to settle.

She broke down in tears various times while recounting the multiple sexual harassment incidents while she was on the witness stand. Newton stated that listening to her supervisors and coworkers false claims about her work competency and reliability was like reliving the nightmare all over again.

Newton’s story was refuted by a slew of employees who had been called upon by Shell’s defense team.

Nobody Confirmed Her Story – Except One

None of the Shell employees confirmed Newton’s story and her version of events. It was only on the fourth day of testimony when Ray Jones, her union representative, claimed in a booming voice that Newton had shared some of her experiences in the beginning of her initial training, which had left him shell-shocked.

His jaw dropped because he could not believe that Newton was going through the terrible things she described.

There were five claims made by Newton – retaliation, gender discrimination, gender-based harassment, failure to prevent retaliation, harassment and discrimination, and whistleblower retaliation. The jury decided that Newton had successfully established two of the five claims – she was harassed and Shell failed to prevent that.

The Final Verdict

When the final verdict was passed in Newton’s favor, she was awarded damages of $475,000 for emotional distress and for past and future mental suffering.

Though there was no specific employee named, the jury found that there was at least one Shell employee or representative who had engaged in malicious conduct bordering on fraud and oppression.

Newton was overwhelmed and could barely talk. She had now become the first person in at least five years to have won a harassment claim against a major US refinery corporation in federal court.

Speak to an Experienced Sexual Assault Attorney in California

If you or someone close to you has been a victim of sexual harassment in any form, you may be eligible to receive compensation. Experienced sexual harassment attorneys at Makarem & Associates in California can help to protect your rights.

Contact Makarem & Associates on email at [email protected] or call 310.312.0299.

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