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Punitive Damages for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

A jury in Baltimore has awarded three women compensatory damages in amounts ranging from $4,000 to $10,000, plus punitive damages of $110,000 each, after finding that they had suffered sexual harassment and retaliation at the hands of their employer.

The jury found that the three former employees Endoscopic Microsurgery Associates, a  Baltimore-area medical practice, were subjected to unwanted sexual advances by the company’s chief executive officer and chief financial officer. 

According to the lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Linda Luz, a receptionist for Endoscopic  Microsurgery Associates, P.A. / Mark D. Noar, M.D. & Associates, was repeatedly subjected to unwanted sexual advances and a sexually hostile work environment by CEO Dr. Mark Noar and CFO Martin Virga.  After Luz repeatedly rejected the advances, the medical practice began retaliating against her by issuing to her unwarranted  discipline and rescinding approved leave, which eventually culminated in her retaliatory termination.  Study coordinator Jacqueline Huskins similarly experienced unwanted sexual advances from Noar and Virga, as did nurse Kimberly Hutchinson from Noar.

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Sexual harassment includes intimidation, bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.  It can also include offensive remarks about a person’s sex.   Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

Unlawful retaliation occurs when an employer fires, demotes, harasses, or takes other types of adverse action to retaliate against an employee or job applicant because they complained about discrimination or sexual harassment, because they filed a charge of employment discrimination or sexual harassment, or because they participated in an employment discrimination proceeding such as an investigation or lawsuit.  The law forbids retaliation when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

The EEOC attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement in this case through its conciliation process.  When those efforts failed, it brought suit in federal court and won.

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