Florida Court Officials Cleared of Retaliation Charge

June 22, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A Florida federal court jury has cleared Charlotte County officials of charges they fired a county secretary who complained about being sexually harassed.

>The Fort Myers jury deliberated for 7 ½   hours before handing down its decision in a case involving   former secretary Heather Wolff, 34, of Dade City, according to a Fort Myers News Press story. Wolff sued in June 2003, saying she was illegally discharged after the sexual harassment allegations were leveled at Charlotte County Court Administrator William Hayes.

>Wolff complained she was ostracized by co-workers after filing a case with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), denied a promotion, and told to perform menial tasks before being fired in May 2002.

>Officially, court officials said Wolff was fired for refusing to take diversity training after it was learned she put racist and vulgar notes with words such as “bitch” and “flaming idiot” in the files of some people starting probation, the newspaper said.

>Wolff was one of two court administration employees who sued in 2002 and 2003, claiming they were the target of unwanted sexual comments and gestures from Hayes. Harassment claims filed by Wolff and Lori Howard were dismissed by judges who ruled the allegations didn’t rise to the level of federal antidiscrimination law violations. However, US District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington allowed Wolff’s retaliation claim to go to a jury.

>But the four-day trial ended up being more about whether Wolff wrote the notes than about retaliation. The notes surfaced while court administrators investigated Wolff’s sexual harassment complaint.