Thursday, March 11, 2010

You Can't Touch This! - $2.7 Million Verdict Against Harasser and Employer

Sexual propositions and unwanted touching in the workplace between a supervisor and his subordinates are a no-no. But an even bigger no-no is for a company to minimize or ignore the complaints of women because the harasser is a top earner for the company.

On February 12, a federal jury in Birmingham returned a verdict of $2.7 million against U.S. Security Associates, Inc, a security guard firm based in Atlanta, Georgia and Christopher Hargrove, the company's top executive in Alabama. The Plaintiff, Jamie Marks, sued USSA alleging sexual harassment when Hargrove repeatedly propositioned her for sex, inappropriately touched her, and masturbated in front of her on one occasion. Testimony at trial established that Marks' complaints were ignored by the company, and several witnesses testified that females working in the Birmingham office and elsewhere under Hargrove's supervision were routinely exposed to sexual innuendo, propositions, touching and threats. Despite complaints from several women, Hargrove remained employed with USSA throughout the lawsuit and trial, was never disciplined, and was even given bonuses and company stock. He is no longer employed with the company. Attorneys Alicia Haynes, Kenneth Haynes, and Brett Adair represented Ms. Marks.

A second lawsuit is pending in federal court against the company and Hargrove, this one filed by the EEOC and involving six other female plaintiffs. I currently represent one of the women in this case. Trial is set for later this year.


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