On Feb. 15, Mark Oberti won a $2.57 million willful age-discrimination verdict for a 65-year-old former Pottery Barn assistant store manager. Oberti, a partner in Houston’s Oberti Sullivan, who frequently represents corporate defendants in his labor and employment practice, says he achieved the victory by trying the case as the lone lawyer and streamlining his case.

"I went to court without a lot of stuff. I didn’t even have a computer. I was telling the jury I didn’t need it, I had truth on my side," says Oberti.

Williams-Sonoma Executive Vice President Pat Connolly emailed a statement on the company’s behalf: "Employment lawsuits are common in America, but they are rare for Williams-Sonoma, Inc. as we have made diversity and inclusion a top priority in our company. This dedication to our associates is apparent in Williams-Sonoma’s strong employment record. The Company has not had a judgment against it in an employment lawsuit in its history. We are evaluating our options, including an appeal."

Nancy Robertson filed an amended complaint on Jan. 24, 2012, against Williams-Sonoma Inc. and its subsidiary that operates Pottery Barn stores. Robertson alleged she had worked at a Pottery Barn store since 2001 when a new district manager for the retail chain told the store’s then-general manager in 2010 that Robertson was "old . . . she wasn’t going to change," and that "we needed to get rid of her."

According to Robertson’s complaint, the district manager requested that the store general manager " ‘create a paper trail’ so as to make it falsely appear as though Robertson’s termination was justified on paper." When that failed, the district manager created a paper trail on her own and fired Robertson, according to her complaint. Robertson sought damages, including punitive damages, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §621 et seq. and Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code.

In an answer filed on Feb. 12, 2012, Williams-Sonoma and the subsidiary denied that they had discriminated against Robertson and alleged she had not made her claims in a timely fashion to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Christopher Lynn Ashby of Houston’s Ashby LLP, who represents Williams-Sonoma and its subsidiary, did not return a call seeking comment. The statement Connolly emailed also notes, "We are disappointed with the jury’s decision and with the size of the award, which clearly goes beyond the amount allowed by Texas law. Despite the jury verdict, Texas law caps compensatory and punitive damages at $300,000."

Due to state and federal caps in employment-discrimination cases, Oberti acknowledges that his client will not see a final award equal to the jury verdict. But he expects with attorney fees, the judge might award her about $800,000. That’s not a bad result for a woman who earned about $40,000 a year, Oberti says.

During the five-day trial, he says, he made a point to focus on what he argued was a simple truth: "They discriminated against my client and tried to cover up with paper."

Each time he interviewed a witness, Oberti says he kept those points in front of the jury.

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