By Robert A. Hamilton
Published on 5/16/00
A U.S. District Court jury has awarded a
Glastonbury woman $750,000 after finding that she was subjected
to sexual harassment at an Electric Boat work site in Windsor
from 1994 to '96, when EB was dismantling a decommissioned Navy
nuclear reactor prototype.
The seven-man, two-woman jury heard evidence
for five days at the district courthouse in Waterbury and rendered
a verdict in less than three hours that EB had not done enough
to correct the situation involving Judith Dobrich.
But Dobrich said she will still appeal the
decision by the judge in the case to throw out six of the seven
counts in her lawsuit against EB, and to reduce the jury award
to $300,000, the cap set by federal law. If juries can be trusted
to make the right decision in capital cases, where a person's
life is at stake, they should be trusted to make a proper finding
in a lawsuit, she said.
"The hard evidence, the really damning
evidence, was all thrown out," Dobrich said. After paying
taxes and attorney's fees, she said she will realize about $124,000
from the judgment, while she suffers a variety of stress-related
medical ailments that she said are a result of the case.
"I don't see out of one eye, I can't
hear out of one ear, and I'm on total disability,"Dobrich
said. "You tell me - did I win?"
EB spokesman Neil D. Ruenzel said the company
could not comment yet on whether it might appeal, because the
situation is still under review.
"We're disappointed by the ruling, and
we don't feel that sexual harassment was proven,"Ruenzel
said. "We are presenting post-verdict motions, and discussing
our options with our counsel."
Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory operated the
nuclear reactor prototype from its construction in the 1950s until
1991, when it was shut down. In 1993, Knolls hired EB to restore
the site to so-called "greenfields" condition.
Dobrich was hired in June 1994 as a laborer
to move furniture and do other manual tasks. She had previously
worked in human resources, interior design, sales and sales management,
and held a degree in theology; she told the court that there was
a shortage of jobs in her specialties, and she took the laborer
job in the hope she could eventually transfer to a clerical position
From the time she was hired, she claimed
in her suit, she was subjected to verbal and physical harassment,
including an incident on Aug. 24, 1994, when another worker kicked
a chair at her, injuring her wrist. The co-worker denied the incident,
and Dobrich did not initially miss any work, although the wrist
grew progressively worse, and seven months later, she underwent
There were several other incidents where
people made sexually graphic comments to her, or left graphic
materials where she could find them.
In 1995, after she was laid off, Dobrich
filed complaints with the state Commission on Human Rights and
Opportunities and filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court. The
lawsuit listed seven counts: age discrimination (she was 51 when
she was laid off); violation of the Americans with Disabilities
Act, because of her wrist injury; two counts related to retaliation;
one count for intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent
supervision; and sexual harassment.
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