The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission has ordered the Research Institute for Hawaii USA to pay its former executive director $843,000 in back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages after the commission found the company liable for religious and sexual harassment and discrimination.
The commission also held RIH USA CEO Christopher Damon Haig liable in the harassment and discrimination of Kay Lorraine Bate.
The five-member commission stated in its 66 page decision, "…the weight of the evidence shows that Haig's harassment of Complainant was based on a combination of two protected factors – because Complainant was Jewish and a woman."
The commission also found that Bate was terminated because of her religion and for complaining about the harassment.
The commission ordered Honolulu-based RIH and Haig to pay Bate $343,200 in back pay, $200,000 in compensatory damages for injury to her feelings, emotions, and mental well-being, and $300,000 in punitive damages. The commission also ordered the employer to implement a non-discrimination policy and to cease and desist from discriminating against all employees on the basis of religion or sex.
The decision held Haig individually liable because RIH was his "alter ego" and use of RIH's corporate status as a shield against individual liability would "bring about injustice and inequity."
HCRC Executive Director William Hoshijo brought the case for hearing before the commission after an investigation of Bate's employment discrimination complaint. Attorneys Margery Bronster and Susan Ichinose represented Kay Lorraine Bate while attorney Bruce Voss represented RIH and Christopher Damon Haig.
"This final decision is significant for two reasons," said HCRC Executive Director Hoshijo. "Strong state civil rights protections against religious and sexual harassment as well as affirming that there is no place for anti-Semitism or other religious discrimination in Hawaii."
Federal and State anti-discrimination agencies have for years outlawed hostile environment harassment in employment on the basis of sex, race, age, and other categories protected by statute, including religion.
The commission's final decision can be appealed to the state circuit court within 30 days of its issuance, which was on Aug. 26, 2014.