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Former lifeguard wins $3.5M in sexual harassment suit

A federal jury has awarded a sum of $3.5 million to a former lifeguard who claims she was the target of repeated sexual harassment from a supervisor. She claims she then suffered retaliatory termination after reporting the misconduct. After awarding the damages for pain and suffering, the jury said it was "embarrassed" by how the case was treated by the woman's supervisors, admonishing them for ignoring the issue and failing to take appropriate action on her complaints.

The woman began working as a lifeguard at a pool just outside of Maryland state lines in 2006, shortly after which her supervisor reportedly began asking personal questions about her love life and asking her out on dates. When she refused, the harassment allegedly became increasingly aggressive and inappropriate. According to the plaintiff's lawyer, the supervisor eventually began explicitly asking the woman for sex for his birthday. He was also accused of stroking her hair and making other similar sexual advances.

The lifeguard complained to six superiors about the supervisor's behaviors, but no action was taken to prevent further harassment. After filing a written complaint in October of 2006, the woman was fired. The lawsuit contends that this termination was retaliatory in nature. Attorneys representing the supervisor said that the pool managers addressed the woman's complaints in an inappropriate fashion and denied that any sexual harassment took place. They declined to comment upon leaving the courtroom after the verdict was announced. The supervisor could not be reached for comment.

In addition to awarding damages to the woman, the jury also recommended that the park district which operates the pool implements training classes aimed at prevent future harassment. The jury also asked that a full investigation into the incident be launched. The U.S. district judge who presided over the case will determine whether the park district will be required to rehire the plaintiff and will also decide how much back pay she should receive.

Source: Washington Post, "Federal jury awards $3.5 million to former D.C. Lifeguard who was fired after complaining of sexual harassment," Del Quentin Wilber, Aug. 10, 2012

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