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Rand Construction Found Liable For Retaliating Against Employee Who Took Medical Leave

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Rand Construction CEO Linda Rabbitt
Rand Construction CEO Linda Rabbitt accepting the Joseph Stettinius Jr. Leadership Award

A former Rand Construction employee who sued the Alexandria-based company over the way she was fired received a partial victory in federal court Friday.

The jury in the Eastern District of Virginia ruled in favor of Arlene Fry, the former executive assistant to CEO Linda Rabbitt, on one of five counts, awarding Fry $50,555. 

Fry filed a lawsuit in August, alleging that Rand Construction retaliated by firing her after she took a two-week leave last year to treat multiple sclerosis symptoms. Her suit alleged retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act and two violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, for discrimination and retaliation. 

The jury's verdict, first reported by the Washington Post, ruled in Fry's favor on the FMLA count, but ruled in Rand Construction's favor on the ADA counts. Two additional charges in the initial complaint were rejected by the judge. The jury also found in favor of Rand in an affirmative defense count Rand Construction filed accusing Fry of stealing confidential emails from the company.

Akin Gump attorney Anthony Pierce, who represented Rand Construction, said the jury's award represented a small fraction of what the plaintiff initially sought, and that the rulings in Rand's favor show the jury mostly agreed with the defense. 

"This was a tremendous victory for Rand," Pierce told Bisnow

Rand Construction's legal team plans to file a post-trial motion contesting the one count on which the jury ruled in favor of Fry, and he said there is a chance the judge could overturn the verdict.

"I don't think a reasonable juror could have reached the conclusion they did on the retaliation claim because the facts just didn't support this," Pierce said. "I think they felt sorry for Ms. Fry and wanted to give her something and this was how they went about doing it, but for the most part they fundamentally rejected her story." 

Fry's attorney told the Washington Post she feels vindicated that she wasn't terminated because of her own actions. Fry, 64, had worked for Rand for over eight years. Her complaint alleged that Rand posted a job advertisement for her position the day after she left on medical leave and she later learned she had been fired. 

Rabbitt last week won the inaugural Joseph Stettinius Jr. Leadership Award, and she is widely viewed as a pioneering female executive in the construction industry. She founded Rand Construction in 1989 and grew it from a small tenant interiors firm to a national construction company with over $300M in annual sales.