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ARTICLE ID 193446

$________ – CIVIL RIGHTS ACTION – SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN WORKPLACE – RETALIATORY DISCHARGE – MENTAL ANGUISH INJURIES

Broward County, FL

The plaintiff, a 25-year-old female who claimed she was exposed to lewd comments and behavior by a male co-worker while working for the defendant.

The plaintiff contended that the defendant failed to take corrective action, despite her several complaints, and ultimately terminated her in retaliation for the complaints. The case was brought under Florida’s Civil Rights Act.

The plaintiff was employed by the defendant to lease apartments. She worked for the defendant for approximately one and a half years, before the man who became her harasser was hired. The plaintiff described persistent lewd comments made by the co-worker about her underwear, breasts, and offers to have sex. The plaintiff and a female co-worker testified that they complained to the defendant’s management several times about the behavior of the harasser. The plaintiff contended that her manager told her that the harasser "liked her."

The defendant’s manager denied making that comment, and contended that she spoke to the harasser, whom indicated that he would stop making any comments to the plaintiff.

The plaintiff also described one occasion where the harasser made very vulgar and humiliating comments to her in a small file room, while she was retrieving a file from a bottom cabinet and the harasser stood next to her with his groin positioned near her face. The plaintiff admitted that the co-worker never touched her.

The plaintiff contended that she suffered severe emotional distress as a result of the harassing incidents, as well as her wrongful termination. The plaintiff called a forensic psychiatrist, an examining psychologist, and several before-and-after witnesses in support of her mental anguish claims. The plaintiff also sought future losses for earning capacity, and medical expenses.

The plaintiff’s vocational expert and economic damages expert (CPA) testified in support of the plaintiff’s economic loss claims.

The defendant contended that the plaintiff never complained about the incident in the file room. The defense argued the co-worker’s alleged lewd comments and behavior did not create a hostile work environment, or constitute sexual harassment.

The defense contended that the plaintiff worked with the co-employee eight times during a one-month period, before the plaintiff was terminated.

The defendant asserted that management promptly responded to the plaintiff’s complaints by speaking to the harasser. Based on the alleged nature and infrequency of the comments, the defendant argued that no sexual harassment occurred.

The defense also contended that the plaintiff was terminated for legitimate business reasons, entailing her cursing and threatening a co-worker (the harasser) in violation of express company policy. The defense maintained that the plaintiff was not terminated in retaliation for lodging her complaints.

The defense argued that the plaintiff was able to obtain employment shortly after her termination, and did not sustain any future loss of earnings. The defense also contended that the plaintiff was first treated psychologically over a year after the termination for reasons unrelated to the employment issues with the defendant. The defense argued that the plaintiff’s emotional problems were either pre-existing, or related to other life events. The defense called an expert forensic psychologist, vocational expert, and economist.The jury found that one of the two defendant companies was the plaintiff’s employer. The jury found for the plaintiff on both counts against that defendant, and awarded the plaintiff $________ in damages. The defendant has filed an appeal. The plaintiff has filed for statutory attorney fees.

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