A Los Angeles Police Department officer who said she was sexually harassed at work to the point where she gave birth to a stillborn baby because of the stress then retaliated against when she complained will receive $2.3 million in damages, a California federal jury has ruled.
The officer, Melissa Borck, claimed she was subjected to sexual comments about her pregnancy, including the increasing size of her breasts, while working at the departmentâ€™s Valley Traffic Division in 1996. When she complained to supervisors about the harassment, she was retaliated against, Borck claimed.
In one incident, Borck claimed a male officer grabbed her head and pulled it toward his crotch while commenting â€œI thought youâ€™d never ask.â€ Also, Borck and other female officers in the unit were forced to fetch dry cleaning, coffee, and lunch for their male counterparts, according to her suit.
The stress from the harassment caused Borck to deliver a stillborn baby boy at 19 weeks of pregnancy in November 1996, her lawsuit alleged. Jurors reached a unanimous verdict on April 1, 2009, awarding Borck $1 million in economic damages and $1.3 million in non-economic loss, including emotional distress.
Retaliation against employees who act as whistleblowers about sexual harassment and other wrongdoing is against the law.
This was the second trial held for Borckâ€™s claims, after an earlier mistrial was declared due to juror misconduct. U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter ordered a new trial after the verdict in the first trial after a juror was heard saying, “We weren’t here to hear about her dead baby,” officials said.
This is not the first time the LAPD has paid millions to a female officer to settle allegations of sexual harassment. In November 2008, the department paid $2.25 million to a female member of the canine bomb unit who claimed male officers exposed their genitalia, made sexually explicit remarks, and excluded her from training exercises and other opportunities.