A jury on Thursday awarded a corporal at the Fayette County Detention Center $60,000, agreeing that she was sexually harassed on the job in 2009.
After the verdict, a tearful Charlotte Trotter said she was happy that someone listened to her.
Trotter sued the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, former detention center director Ron Bishop and detention center Maj. Michael Korb in November 2009, claiming she was sexually harassed by Korb and was retaliated against after she reported the harassment.
The jury's verdict, which was split, and the award of $60,000 in compensatory damages from the local government followed a trial that started Monday in Fayette Circuit Court. The jury did not find that Trotter was the victim of retaliation and did not find that evidence in the case proved Korb touched Trotter's breast without her consent on Oct. 5, 2009.
Trotter could have received more than $1 million had the jury voted in her favor on all issues and awarded her the maximum amount allowed.
"At the end of the day, my client is extremely happy that she has been vindicated because the last three years the jail has consistently denied they were at fault for anything," said Shane Sidebottom, Trotter's attorney.
Susan Straub, spokeswoman for Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, said the local government had no comment at this time.
The jury found, by a vote of 9-3, that Korb sexually harassed Trotter, and that his conduct was so severe and pervasive that it interfered with a "reasonable female employee's work performance" or created an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. The jury also agreed, on a 10-2 vote, that Korb's conduct harmed Trotter's psychological well-being.
A majority of jurors said that the local government did not promptly conduct a reasonable investigation into the matter and that evidence did not show Korb's conduct stopped after Trotter complained about it.
The $60,000 award was to compensate Trotter for mental and emotional distress Trotter suffered because of Korb's conduct.
Judge James Ishmael dismissed Bishop from the case before closing arguments were heard. Bishop had been accused of negligent supervision, but the judge found the claim was not supported under the law.
Trotter accused Korb of sexually harassing her on four occasions beginning in early August 2009. She said that after she complained about his conduct and after she filed her lawsuit, she was retaliated against, with jail officials giving her written reprimands, suspensions and even sending her a "last chance" letter for various alleged on-the-job infractions.
Trotter testified that she was placed under Korb's direct supervision in October 2009 — after she had complained that he had sexually harassed her. Korb is still Trotter's boss.
According to testimony in the trial, Korb recommended that Trotter be suspended from work for sleeping on the job last August.
However, according to other court testimony, Trotter actually was sleeping during a regular break period and was simply late getting back to work after her break.
Witnesses testified that jail employees who committed the same type of infraction received lesser punishments. They said it was not uncommon for corrections officers, who are required to work a minimum of 16 hours of overtime a week, to sleep in their cars during their breaks.