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Contract Phlebotomist Wins $1.5M Verdict In Sexual Harassment Case

A pattern of ongoing sexual harassment by members of the Oceanside Police Department has ended in a $1.5 million award from a Vista Superior Court jury. Kimberli Hirst was a contract phlebotomist for the department; she took blood samples from those accused of driving under the influence and was employed by American Forensic Nurses.

The officer involved in the sexual harassment admitted to making inappropriate and suggestive comments to Hirst but claimed that she welcomed the attention. He was fired in 2009.

The 12-person jury voted 11-1 in favor of Hirst on her sexual harassment in the workplace claims. It blamed the City for failing to properly handle the harassment through investigation and education. The officer involved was found to be only 25 percent at fault for the harassment, leaving the City responsible for 75 percent of the $1.5 million verdict.

According to evidence presented at trial, the City waited five to six weeks before acting on information about sexual harassment in the workplace involving Hirst and a male officer. During that time, the harassment was wrongfully allowed to continue unchecked by management within the police department or the City.

The City asserts that Hirst never complained of the sexually harassing behavior; instead, a security guard who overheard suggestive or explicit conversations between Hirst and the male officer involved. The City plans to appeal the jury verdict.

Source: UT San Diego, " $1.5M Award In Sexual Harassment Lawsuit," April 18, 2013

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