Jury awards in sexual harassment cases have topped $100 million several times. In a 2012 award reported by ABC News, a California jury awarded $168 million to a physician's assistant after she was fired for submitting sexual harassment complaints against a Sacramento hospital.
Historically, the Sheriff's Office has received few official complaints, say County Attorney Amy Folsom and Assistant County Attorney Diana May. In the last three years, the county has settled two lawsuits against the Sheriff's Office. The county paid less than $10,000 and back pay to an employee who alleged wrongful termination in violation of First Amendment rights, May says. The county paid $221,172 about a year ago to settle an allegation of violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In the last three years, until recently, May says, "We have not had any claims for sexual harassment or EEOC notices for sexual harassment from the Sheriff's Office or any employee at the Sheriff's Office."
In 2003, the most recent case of which May and Folsom are aware, the county paid $40,000 to a female deputy alleging sex discrimination when the Sheriff's Office posted a job opening at the all-male Metro Jail (since closed), saying only males need apply.
The county's biggest payouts in recent memory involved wrongful death claims. In 2005, the county paid $323,410 to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a woman killed when a mudflap and metal bracket flew off a county dump truck into her windshield. In 2010, the county paid $300,000 to the mother of toddler Alize Vick, who was killed while in the care of a foster mother.
The city, by comparison, has paid several high-dollar settlements in cases involving city-owned Memorial Health System (several $1 million payments), a Metropolitan Transit contract dispute ($8 million) and police officers who sought back overtime pay ($5.25 million).
— Pam Zubeck
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