Sexual Harassment of Lifeguard Yields $3.5m Pain and Suffering Jury Award

Contributed by Terry Fox

On August 24, 2012, a Washington, D.C., jury awarded Carmen Jean-Baptiste $3,500,000 for emotional distress for sexual harassment by her supervisor.  Jean-Baptiste was a 43-year-old lifeguard harassed by her male supervisor, Rodney Weaver.  Despite repeated complaints to others at the Takoma aquatic center about Weaver’s conduct, the harassment did not stop.  When Jean-Baptiste filed a written complaint, she was fired.

The jury foreman felt “embarrassed” by how the complaints by Ms. Jean-Baptiste were handled.  He stated that superiors ignored and stalled any action on the complaints.  The trial court has yet to award back pay damages to Ms. Jean-Baptiste.

This report is provided to those employers without enough worries to keep them up at night.  Some comfort may be taken from the limits provided by Title VII for private employers.  Non-monetary damages are capped by size of the employer to a maximum of $300,000 for a single employee complaint. However, state statutes sometimes have no limitations, as is the case with the Illinois Human Rights Act.  Pain and suffering is not limited in any manner by the Illinois Act, and punitive damages are also available.