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Jury Sides With Fired Woman

February 10, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ A federal jury has awarded $500,000 to a former saleswoman who said she was fired for speaking Spanish and because the company president didn’t like her Puerto Rican accent.

The jury awarded Irma Rivera $125,000 in compensatory damages and $375,000 in punitive damages on Friday. It also said she is entitled to back pay and future pay until retirement, which could amount to another $200,000, said her lawyer, Joseph C. Maya.

``The company disagrees with the jury verdict very strongly,″ said Jeffrey H. Daichman, a lawyer for Baccarat, the high-end Manhattan store where Ms. Rivera sold crystal and china from 1986 through 1994.

He said the company will ask for a new trial and for the verdict to be set aside.

Ms. Rivera, 59, was told she was not permitted to speak Spanish to co-workers and that company president Jean-Luc Negre did not like her accent, Maya said.

Soon afterward, Ms. Rivera _ the company’s top sales person from 1992 to 1995 _ was fired, he said.

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