SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – It’s a state worker bullying case costing California taxpayers $3 million.
The jury’s multi-million-dollar judgment is for a Caltrans employee who sued the state after he says his supervisors preyed on him because of a disability, and the state didn’t stop them.
John Barrie says he lived through a nightmare.
“It was absolutely terrifying,” Barrie said.
Barrie, diagnosed with a disability called chemical hypersensitivity, can become sick from common cleaning products like Comet and Windex or even from perfume.
“It’s very real and when someone’s in the middle of it, it can be almost a crisis situation,” Barrie said.
When Barrie submitted a formal request prohibiting certain substances from his workspace because of his condition, he came under attack by coworkers and supervisors, purposely pouring those substances near him.
A section of the lawsuit against Caltrans reads, “his workspace is often doused with perfume…” and “…the chemical exposures he has experienced and continues to experience are not accidental…”
“Egregious, unconscionable, unlawful,” Barrie said.
Barrie says he complained to supervisors 23 times in a three-month period about the workplace conditions.
Then came retaliation.
According to the court documents, Barrie’s supervisors eventually had him moved from his desk to other locations, where they also asked him to perform clerical and janitorial duties.
The Caltrans analyst was told to clean bathrooms.
“Toilets, faucets, sink, vacuum, on occasions, rat droppings,” Barrie said.
After hearing the lawsuit a jury awarded Barrie a whopping $3 million for disability harassment.
“I was able to tell my story, and I feel absolutely vindicated now,” Barrie said.
Caltrans has not fired any employees over this case.
A Caltrans spokesperson said the agency is reviewing the decision and deciding whether to appeal.