By DAVID OLSON
A Coachella Valley man whose three mobile home parks were accused of religious discrimination is asking a judge to overturn a jury's award of $85,000 in damages.
Judy Clark said she was suspended from her job as a mobile home saleswoman a few weeks after she discovered a November 2003 memo that referred to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- colloquially known as the Mormon church -- as a cult and said its practice should be barred from mobile-home-park facilities.
Two other Mormons were fired after Clark, of Thermal, was suspended. They reached a confidential settlement with park management in 2004. They also had alleged religious discrimination.
A Riverside County Superior Court jury found last month that religion was not "the motivating reason" why Clark was indefinitely suspended -- she was never formally fired -- from her job at the parks, which are east of Desert Hot Springs. But the jury awarded Clark $85,000 in damages for emotional distress and harm because of "intolerable working conditions" that were "based upon religious discrimination or retaliation."
Tim Manthei, who founded the three parks and owns them with several family members, is asking Judge Kenneth Ziebarth to overturn the $85,000 award because the jury instructions were confusing. Manthei said Clark was suspended because of work-performance issues, not her Mormon faith.
He is not appealing the entire verdict because, he said, a court appeal would cost too much money. The jury found that the parks illegally withheld Clark's commissions and awarded her $65,833. The jury also ordered the three parks to pay for Clark's attorney fees, which her lawyers said were between $200,000 and $300,000.
Nick Miller, a Michigan attorney representing Clark, said he had mixed feelings about the verdict. But he said he hoped it sends a message to other employers that religious discrimination will be punished.
Published: Monday, November 17, 2008