|Jury returns $1M verdict in ASU harassment suit|
|Local News Headlines|
|Written by Administrator|
|Thursday, 23 February 2012 11:17|
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – A jury awarded more than $1 million to three women who sued Alabama State University in federal court, saying the school had allowed them to be racially and sexually harassed.
All three women claimed they suffered from retaliation for complaining about a female administrator, whom they accused of frequently using racial slurs and of commenting to one plaintiff about her body. They said the university was responsible for allowing their boss to create a hostile work environment. The administrator and two of the plaintiffs are all Black women. The third woman who filed suit is described in court papers as biracial.
"Justice is served,'' said Cynthia Williams, one of the plaintiffs, as she walked out of the courthouse after the jury delivered its verdict Friday evening.
The monetary damages awarded by the jury of four men and four women included compensation for emotional pain and mental anguish, back pay for two of the women who were fired from the university and lost leave time for the third plaintiff.
Kenneth Thomas, Alabama State's lead attorney in the case, said the defense team was disappointed in the verdict.
Thomas said he and the other lawyers would be "reviewing and analyzing the university's options and discussing with appropriate university officials the next step to protect the university's interests.''
Alabama State spokesman Kenneth Mullinax released a statement indicating university officials would consider an appeal.
The statement said the university "has strong policies and procedures in place to prohibit discrimination and harassment of any individual.''
The jury in the civil case found that Alabama State administrator Lavonette Bartley, an employee for about 27 years, created a racially hostile environment for all three women. She was accused of regularly using racial slurs for both whites and Blacks.
One of the plaintiffs, Lydia Burkhalter, said that Bartley had also made inappropriate comments about her body and clothes. She also accused John Knight, Alabama State's executive vice president and chief operating officer, of making romantic advances toward her. The jury's verdict didn't specify whether its finding of sexual harassment was based on one or both of those claims.