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Court won't review compensatory damages appeal


WASHINGTON--The Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider an appeal of a case in which a Muslim immigrant from Afghanistan was found to have been subject to an offensive and hostile work environment, but received no compensatory or punitive damages.

Abdul Azimi asked the high court to consider his case after the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to award him any damages despite the fact that a district court jury found that he suffered racial, religious or ethnic harassment at his former employer, Jordan Meats Inc., in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maine jury, however, found Mr. Azimi did not suffer any compensable harm as a result of the discrimination and therefore did not award him any compensatory damages.

Mr. Azimi, for example, did not provide any evidence of out-of-pocket costs for medical or psychological treatment or any lost wages, court papers say. The only testimony on compensatory damages that Mr. Azimi offered in regard to his emotional distress came from him, his wife and a close friend from his mosque. The jury rejected it.

Mr. Azimi appealed the ruling on several counts, including that the jury was required to award compensatory damages either as a matter of law or because the evidence compelled it.

In denying the appeal, the appeals court ruled last August that the Supreme Court "long ago" rejected the argument that a finding of a hostile work environment requires that there be an award of compensatory damages.

The appeals court also ruled that Mr. Azimi is not entitled to nominal damages because he did not ask for them in a timely fashion, and that he also is not entitled to punitive damages because the court bars punitive damages awards if there is no finding of compensatory or nominal damages.

Although a reasonable jury "could have awarded damages" based on the evidence presented, there is no plausible argument that reasonable jury "was compelled" to give a compensatory damages award, the appeals court said in its decision.

The appeals court also denied Mr. Azimi's claim that the lower court erred in finding in favor of Jordan's Meats on claims that his firing was discriminatory and retaliatory.

Abdul Azimi vs. Jordan's Meats Inc., 1st U.S. Court of Appeals; No. 05-2602