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Florida Employment Harassment Case "Out of a Bad Movie"

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Tallahassee, FLIn a case that seemed like something out of a bad movie, a Florida employment lawsuit was recently settled in favor of the plaintiff after she revealed sensational details of a five-year pattern of harassment at the hands of her employer.

Florida state labor laws govern the conduct of employers towards their employees and are designed to help maintain a healthy decorum in the workplace. Yet Meyers, the plaintiff in Myers v. Central Florida Investments.Inc. (CFI), reported a work situation that was anything but decorous.

According to court records, the defendant in the case, CFI CEO David Siegel, offered the plaintiff's boyfriend $1 million for the favor of spending a night with Meyers.

For the next five years Siegel continued to harass Meyers in private and in public. "Myers described a pattern of sexual touching from Siegel beginning in 1995 and ending in 2000. He touched her in the office, in the restaurant, in the spa, in the treatment room, and on the dance floor. He touched her legs, her behind, and her shoulders. He touched her when they were alone and when other CFI employees were around," according to court documents.

The plaintiff complained to other executives within the time-share company in Florida, but they proved unhelpful.

In 2000 Meyers was fired.

According to court documents, CFI Inc. sued the plaintiff in state court on a promissory note and other claims for $6,230. The plaintiff then counter-sued CFI and Siegel under Title VII, the Florida Civil Rights Act and state tort law. The case was then removed to federal court.

Following a six-day trial, the jury awarded $102,223.14 in compensatory damages (equal to her last year's salary) and $5,276,640.00 in punitive damages against both Siegel and CFI for battery.

The award was upheld on appeal: "Given the many years during which Siegel touched and harassed Myers in the workplace, his repeated and public humiliations of her, and his refusal to desist despite her repeated requests, the award can hardly be said to evince passion, prejudice, or corruption. The award does not reveal that the court ignored evidence or considered improper elements, nor is the award otherwise illogical. Simply stated, the trial court could find that the $500,000 punitive award bore a reasonable relation to the damage that would flow from a battery preceded by so much sexual misconduct in the workplace."

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