Jury awards $2.75M to Arizona legislative staffer in discrimination case

Nov 11, 2021, 6:30 PM | Updated: 6:49 pm
Talonya Adams (Flinn Foundation Photo)...
Talonya Adams (Flinn Foundation Photo)
(Flinn Foundation Photo)

PHOENIX (AP) — A jury has awarded $2.75 million to an Arizona legislative staffer who said she was fired from her job as a policy adviser for state Senate Democrats because of discrimination based on her race and gender.

The verdict this week marks the second trial victory for Talonya Adams, a Black woman who acted as her own lawyer and witness. Adams was awarded $1 million in 2019 and got her job back, but a federal judge ordered a new trial last year.

A new jury on Tuesday again sided with Adams following a three-day trial and awarded even more in damages, though the total is likely to be reduced to $300,000 because of a cap on employment discrimination judgements under federal law.

Adams alleged she was fired in 2015 for raising questions about the process of getting a raise, noting she made less than her white male colleagues.

“I really hope the message that it sends is to people of color and to women and to marginalized individuals that if they’re being discriminated against in the workplace, there are remedies under the law that they should pursue and fight for justice,” Adams said Thursday.

The case has become a liability for Katie Hobbs, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for Arizona governor who was the Senate’s Democratic leader when Adams was fired in 2015. Hobbs was not named as a defendant but was involved in the decision to fire Adams and testified in both trials.

She told the jury this week that the firing was a consensus decision reached by a group that included the Republican and Democratic chiefs of staff in the Senate, KPNX-TV reported. Hobbs, now the Arizona secretary of state, said she had “lost trust” in Adams, citing in part the policy adviser’s emergency leave to care for her son out of state, and she wished she had been a “better ally” for Adams.

Two Democrats running against Hobbs in the Democratic primary latched onto the verdict and issued scathing statements.

“We need to have an open and honest discussion about what happened, who is accountable, and if we, as Democrats, are prepared to support a nominee for governor who behaved in this manner just a few short years ago,” Aaron Lieberman, an investor and former state legislator, wrote.

Marco Lopez, a businessman and former mayor of Nogales, said the verdict “raises serious questions” that Hobbs “must answer.”

“As governor, I will not tolerate this type or any kind of discriminatory behavior in my administration,” he wrote.

Jennah Rivera, a spokeswoman for the Hobbs campaign, said Hobbs fought for pay increases for Democratic staff during her time as the Senate minority leader, but personnel decisions are ultimately up to the Republican chief of staff.

“The state legislature, both in 2015 and today, is run by Republicans who pay their staffers more than the Democratic Senate staff — which is dramatically more diverse than the Republican staff,” Rivera said in a statement. “This problem is systemic, it persists today, and it needs to be fixed.”

Adams said she will campaign against Hobbs if asked to do so.

“I do not believe she is fit to serve,” Adams said. “I do not believe she’s a person that should be bestowed the power or the authority to govern the citizens of Arizona.”

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Queen Creek Photo)...

Ground broken on next phase of Mansel Carter Oasis Park in Queen Creek

Ground has been broken on the next phase of a park in Queen Creek that is expected to be completed by late next year.
21 hours ago
(Arizona Department of Transportation Photo)...
Kevin Stone

Weeknight closures on I-17 north of Phoenix will impede traffic for months

Interstate 17 north of Phoenix will be closed several nights a week well into next year so crews can blast rocks to make space for new lanes.
21 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Maricopa County)...

Maricopa County certifies 2022 midterm election, leaving Cochise as lone holdout

Maricopa County certified the 2022 midterm election, leaving Cochise County as the lone holdout ahead of Monday's deadline.
21 hours ago
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)...
Danny Shapiro

Ron Wolfley says Arizona Cardinals were hard-luck losers against Chargers

The Arizona Cardinals lost a heartbreaker on Sunday to the Los Angeles Chargers, a defeat Ron Wolfley said was tough luck.
21 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/U.S. Dog Agility Association)...

Dogs will have run of the place in Scottsdale at Agility World Games

There will be no dogging it this week in Scottsdale when nearly 500 of the most athletic canines in the country will compete to be the best at the Cynosport Dog Agility World Games.
21 hours ago
An election worker removes tabulated ballots to be boxed inside the Maricopa County Recorders Offic...
Associated Press

GOP-controlled Cochise County refuses to certify 2022 election

Officials in a rural Arizona county refused Monday to certify the 2022 election ahead of the deadline amid pressure from prominent Republicans to reject a vote count
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Jury awards $2.75M to Arizona legislative staffer in discrimination case