Albuquerque, NM- An Albuquerque jury awarded a former female firefighter $180,000 after finding she was subjected to repeated and pervasive sexual harassment during her thirteen years with the fire department.
Adele Ortega was reluctant to tell on her coworkers, but the sexual harassment just kept getting worse. She told KRQE she just wanted to “make a safe workplace for my daughter or your daughter.”
Ortega worked hard to get on with the fire department, but soon after she was hired the harassment began. According to Ortega’s lawsuit, male firefighters watched pornographic videos on her presence, groped her and put sex toys on her bunks.
In one incident, when Ortega was sleeping in a bunk and woke to a man standing over her with his penis exposed. The lawsuit also alleges that she was being watched in the shower, according to KRQE.
KRQE reported that the sexual harassment attorney representing the Albuquerque fire department accused Ortega of inviting the harassment as part of their defense strategy.
Fire Chief David Downey told KOAT that firefighters take an online sexual harassment course every year, but any sexual harassment lawyer can tell you that courses are not enough to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Stopping sexual is a difficult task if it is the status quo and judging by the pervasiveness in the Albuquerque Fire Department it was the status quo. Chief Downey said he is considering a class room sexual harassment training.
After a four day trial, a jury awarded Ortega $180,000 in damages.
None of the men named in the Ortega’s lawsuit have been disciplined. That is part of the problem. If there are no repercussions for sexually harassing a coworker, what incentive does an employee have to stop their inappropriate behavior? There isn’t one, and employer who ignores sexual harassment or refuses to take action against are doing themselves and their employees a disservice. Not to mention the money they will have to pay out for refusing to take the appropriate action.
Changing the culture of a workplace can be very difficult since many people fail to take sexual harassment serious, especially the harassers themselves. It’s important that once an employee files a formal compliant their employers makes the right move and begins to investigate the claims.
If an employer finds the allegations are true, an employer must act and discipline the each and every one of the offenders appropriately. Not taking action against a harasser is why an employer finds themselves at the center of a sexual harassment lawsuit and facing a high-dollar civil suit.
Sexual harassment can have a number of negative and long-term effects on the targeted individual. They have the right to reach out to a sexual harassment attorney and discuss if there are on solid footing to initiate a lawsuit. If you have been a victim of sexual harassment or workplace discrimination USAttorneys can connect you with a sexual harassment attorney in your area so you can discuss your case and what your next move should be.