Plaintiff awarded $2 million in East Lawn Funeral Home lawsuit

Matthew Lane • Updated Feb 12, 2018 at 11:39 AM

GREENEVILLE — A jury has awarded $2 million to a Chattanooga woman who claimed she was sexually harassed by a coworker while working at East Lawn Funeral Home in Kingsport.

Andrea Herring filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Greeneville in August 2015 naming SCI Tennessee Funeral Services as the defendant. SCI does business as East Lawn Memorial Park and East Lawn Funeral Home.

During her time at East Lawn (November 2009 to November 2013), Herring worked at the Kingsport location as a family service counselor. She claimed in the lawsuit that she was a victim of sexual harassment by coworker Tim Stinnett and retaliation from her supervisors.

In its response, SCI denied all of Herring’s allegations.

Following a three-day trial at the end of January, a jury found in Herring’s favor, awarding her $200,000 in compensatory damages, $100,000 in lost wages and $1,750,000 in punitive damages, all for a grand total of $2,050,000.

“We were thrilled with the jury verdict,” said Donna Mikel, an attorney for Herring, “It demonstrated to us the jury was committed to the notion of making a difference for future employees. It’s clear the jury wanted to deter SCI from engaging in this type of conduct in the future.”

According to the lawsuit, Herring claimed Stinnet made inappropriate, gender-based comments to her during her time at East Lawn, invaded her privacy and touched her in an offensive manner.

Herring said she made it clear this behavior was unwelcome.

Other claims made by Herring in the lawsuit:

- When she bent down, Stinnet came up behind her and rubbed his shoe against her buttocks.

- Stinnet showed her nude pictures on his phone, passed gas in her office and shut the door and made jokes that were sexual in nature.

Herring said she complained about Stinnet’s behavior to her immediate supervisor and general manager, but to no avail. After complaining, Herring said, she was treated differently and in a negative manner at work.

From there she complained to the district manager and the human resources department. At that point, Herring said, she was subjected to retaliation — not allowed to work from home, other employees gave her the “cold shoulder” and comments were made about her performance that were untrue.

Eventually, Herring filed a complaint with the EEOC in October 2013. Shortly thereafter, she was terminated from her position.

The timing of the verdict was relevant with the current #MeToo movement sweeping the nation, Mikel said.

“We feel like the verdict is a positive reflection of the status of that movement,” Mikel said. “I think everyone agrees that no one’s wife, daughter or themselves should be treated in a sexually offensive way at work. It should just be common sense and decency.”

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