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Federal jury finds city liable for firefighter sexual harassment

Despite the efforts of the legal system in recent decades, many forms of discrimination and harassment continue to occur in Broward County workplaces. In many cases, the emotional consequences of work-based sexual harassment have a serious impact on victims' home lives. Individuals can suffer from lost wages, interpersonal relationships can be negatively affected and levels of self-esteem can drop dramatically.

An eight-person federal jury, who voted unanimously in favor of a former firefighter-paramedic, recently brought the sexual harassment case of a Florida woman to a conclusion. At the close of the suit, the woman was awarded $444,000 for emotional distress as well as back wages owed to her by the city.

The jury, which was made up of seven women and one man, took approximately two hours to reach a decision. The verdict, which was read on last week, followed five days of testimony. During the trial, allegations of sexual harassment were made against chiefs and lieutenants at the New Smyrna Beach Fire Department. Apparently, the woman suffered the effects of retaliation when she responded unfavorably to unwanted sexual advances.

While the former emergency responder and her lawyers were pleased with the outcome of the case, city officials disagreed with the jury's decision. According to a city attorney, New Smyrna Beach plans to appeal the verdict.

While sexual harassment can be experienced by members of both sexes, the increasing presence of women in formerly male-oriented work environments may have had an impact on the amount of reported abuse. To ensure that they receive the help to which they are entitled, victims of harassment may consider reaching out to supportive parties who can guide them toward a legal resolution. Although every case is different, individuals may be entitled to receive compensation.

Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal, "Female former NSB firefighter awarded $444,000 in sex discrimination suit," Mark I. Johnson, Feb. 27, 3013

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