In 2009, an employee at the Fayette County Detention Center in Kentucky alleges that her supervisor sexually harassed her. Her lawsuit stated that he humiliated her in front of her co-workers and an inmate on separate occasions. She also claimed that he touched her breast. When she reported this behavior, she was supposedly a victim of retaliation as well. The lawsuit named the director of the detention center and the city. She was one of three women who filed lawsuits against the detention center alleging sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and retaliation.
This Kentucky sexual harassment case went to trial in March 2012. The jury handed down a split decision, which means they agreed with the plaintiff on some points and agreed with the defendants on others. The detention center director was excused from the case by the judge because he did not think the director played a role in the harassment. The jury found that the supervisor had indeed harassed the employee, but did not find any evidence that he actually touched her breast. Jurors also did not think there was enough evidence to prove her supervisor had retaliated against her after she complained about his behavior. They awarded the sexual harassment victim $60,000, most likely to cover any lost wages and to compensate her for any emotional or mental distress the alleged harassment may have caused her. Some of the damages may have been awarded simply to punish the city for allowing this to happen and to persuade city officials not to allow this to happen again at the detention center. Damages of this type are called “punitive damages.” The employee that was allegedly harassed says she is thankful that someone listened to her.
As a further blow to the city and its bank account, the judge agreed that the city was responsible for the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees that accrued during the preparation and attending of the trial. They totaled just over $200,000. If the city decides to appeal this decision and loses, it will likely be held responsible for those additional attorneys’ fees as well.
Sexual harassment can take many forms. It can be unwanted attention or touching from a supervisor; it can be inappropriate jokes or pictures being circulated through the office; or it can be the loss of a promotion or bonus for refusing to grant sexual favors. Sexual harassment can lead to a hostile work environment that becomes uncomfortable enough that the victim may consider quitting her job to get away from the harasser. If you are ever in this position, you should contact a Kentucky employment lawyer to discuss your situation before taking any action. Charles Miller and Rheanne Falkner are experienced Kentucky employment law attorneys that can help determine what needs to be done to make your job safe and comfortable and to make sure the harasser is held accountable for his actions.
Judge upholds sexual harassment verdict against Lexington jail, orders fees paid; Lexington Herald-Leader; Josh Kegley; June 22, 2012
Fayette jail official vehemently denies sexual harassment allegations; Lexington Herald-Leader; Jennifer Hewlett; March 13, 2012