Fired staff attorney awarded over $1.1M for firing after she sought time off for Jewish holidays

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Judge Greg Stephens

Judge Greg S. Stephens. Photo from the Court of Common Pleas of Butler County, Ohio.

A fired attorney and magistrate in Ohio has been awarded more than $1.1 million in her First Amendment lawsuit against a judge who fired her after she sought time off for the Jewish High Holidays.

Federal jurors in Cincinnati on Friday found a violation of Kimberly Edelstein’s First Amendment right of free exercise of religion. She was awarded $835,000 in back pay, $250,000 in compensatory damages, and $35,000 in punitive damages, report Law360 (via Above the Law) and the Journal-News.

Edelstein has claimed that Judge Greg S. Stephens of Butler County, Ohio, took steps to fire her a day after her July 2016 request to take off eight nonconsecutive days in October 2016 for the Jewish holidays. Edelstein said Stephens yelled, “Holy cow, eight days!” when she made the request, according to an August 2019 opinion in the case.

Stephens has said he fired Edelstein because of tensions between her and other staff members. Edelstein has said Stephens fabricated the problems, according to the Journal-News.

“We strongly believe the evidence did not support the verdict, and we are considering our options,” Linda L. Woeber, a lawyer for Stephens, told Law360.

Woeber told the Journal-News that there was no religious bias, and the employee who replaced Edelstein was Jewish.

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