Company founded by high school, NFL star assessed $800,000 in punitive damages
MIDLAND, Texas – A federal jury in Midland has returned a $1 million sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination verdict against Odessa-based oilfield services company Brinkerhoff Inspection Inc. doing business as SMOB.
The $1.008 million verdict returned on Wednesday by the jury of six men and two women includes punitive damages totaling $841,625 to punish the defendant and deter similar conduct in the future.
Jurors heard testimony that plaintiff Sara Roberts was fired just four days into her employment after rejecting sexual advances from SMOB’s Personnel Manager Keith Demby. Ms. Roberts had also disclosed that she was pregnant during the job interview process in response to questions by Mr. Demby. She was fired after informing the company that she had recently gotten married.
In reaching the verdict, jurors agreed unanimously that Ms. Roberts was a victim of sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and pregnancy discrimination.
“The jury is the conscience of the community. This diverse jury of men and women from all walks of life in the oilfield wanted to send a clear message,” said lead trial attorney Holly Williams of Williams Law Firm, P.C. in Midland. “They can be proud of this verdict. Businesses across the energy sector should take note of this verdict and carefully review their practices.”
Brinkerhoff is an oilfield inspection company. At the time of Ms. Roberts’ employment, it was owned by former San Diego Chargers linebacker Bront Bird, a standout at Odessa’s Permian High School and Texas Tech University, along with Mr. Bird’s brother, Luke Bird, and former Tech quarterback Steven “Sticks” Sheffield.
The case is Sara L. Roberts v Brinkerhoff Inspection, Inc. dba SMOB in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Cause No. 7:16-cv-342.
Brian Carney of Carney Law Firm in Midland also represented Ms. Roberts at trial.
Williams Law Firm, P.C. is a boutique law firm in Midland, Texas, dedicated to representing companies and individuals in the Permian Basin who want to prevent and resolve workplace issues. Holly Williams is board certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. For more information, visit http://www.williamslawpc.com.