On Wednesday of last week, a Los Angeles jury returned a verdict in favor of Officer Melissa Borck in a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department. The verdict: $2,300,000.00. (To read more click here.)
From what I have read, the allegations include an incident where a male officer pushed Officer Brock’s head to his groin and stated, “I thought you would never ask.” In addition, while pregnant, male officers commented about the size of her breasts and asked her to breast feed them. Borck contended that the stress of the hostile work environment caused her baby to be stillborn. She also contended that females were ordered, by male officers, to make coffee and get lunch. According to Borck, the work environment was one of constant harassment and retaliation for female officers.
This result should not have been unexpected. In November of 2008, the LAPD was hit with a $2.25 million dollar verdict in a suit brought by another female officer, Patricia Fuller of the Bomb Unit. Fuller alleged that she too was subjected to unwelcome sex based conduct that included male officers exposing their genitalia, sexually explicit comments, and exclusion from training programs.
The Bottom Line:
Contrary to popular belief, sexual harassment is not something that we no longer need to be concerned about. The truth of the matter is that human resources departments must continually fight this problem. There is no easy solution for the problem. Employers that have had success battling this form of harassment have taken a two prong approach to training. The first prong addresses issues of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace. The second emphasizes the manner in which complaints of harassment are reported and provides employees assurances that they will not be the subject of retaliation for their reports. However, no amount of training will be effective if upper management does not dig in its heels and mandate that a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment that includes harsh discipline for violations of that policy, even if the culprit is a “rising star” in the organization.