A federal judge has awarded a former Arizona Senate staffer a million dollars in damages after a jury agreed that she was the victim of racial and sex discrimination.
According to the Arizona Republic, Talonya Adams’ lawsuit claims that in 2015 she was fired from her position as a policy adviser to the Senate’s Democratic caucus in retaliation for speaking up about her salary and workload.
Adams, who is a Black woman, represented herself in the case and claimed she was paid far less than her white male counterparts, and also allotted much less vacation leave.
“Plaintiff learned that male non-African American counterparts at work received substantially higher salaries and salary increases,” the complaint filed by Adams states, adding, “Although the job responsibilities were the same, Plaintiff had a heavier workload and the more challenging committee assignments.”
Adams also found it curious she was the only policy adviser who didn’t receive a raise during her tenure, despite being “a strong performer who didn’t receive negative criticisms during her employment.”
When she voiced her concerns in an email to then-Senate minority leader and current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, her correspondence was called “inappropriate,” and her direct requests for a raise to close the pay gap were denied.
Unfortunately, a few days after this interaction, Adams had to travel to Seattle for a family medical emergency. Even though she maintained contact with her superiors during her time away, and at some points even “performed some of her work duties,” the suit claims she was still abruptly terminated for “insubordination and abandonment of her job.”
Monday, a jury sided with Adams’ claims of discrimination, and the million dollar award she received is for compensatory damages, emotional distress and any loss of “enjoyment of life.”
A hearing to review non-compensatory damages has been scheduled for August 14, and if the court rules in her favor again, Adams could be awarded additional funds.