A persistent failure by the manager designated by an employer to receive complaints of sexual harassment to respond to an employee’s complaints of such harassment was sufficient to permit a jury to reasonably conclude that the employer acted with malice or reckless indifference to sexual harassment, entitling the employee to punitive damages, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held Feb. 1 (Deters v. Equifax Credit Information Services Inc., 10th Cir., No. 97-3340, 2/1/00).
Sharon Deters, a former employee of Equifax Credit Information Services Inc., alleged that she had been subjected to persistent sexual harassment, mainly verbal and occasionally physical, while she was employed in Equifax’s Lenexa, Kan., debt-collection office. At trial, she described sexual harassment that she suffered at the hands of three male co-workers and her original male supervisor. A jury awarded her $5,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages, which the district court reduced to $295,000 in accordance with the statutory cap on such damages. The 10th Circuit affirmed on appeal.
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