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$1.5 Million to Cali. Phlebotomist for Sexual Harassment Suit Against Supervising Police Officer

By Christopher Zoukis

An Oceanside, California woman who provided phlebotomy services to the Oceanside Police Department for three months in 2008 was awarded $1.5 million on April 17, 2013. The jury award was for damages caused by the sexual harassment she suffered while on the job.

Kimberli Hirst worked for American Forensic Nursing, a company that provided phlebotomy services to law enforcement agencies on a contract basis. During her time working with the Oceanside Police Department, she was supervised by police officer Gilbert Garcia. According to Hirst, Garcia made five sexually inappropriate comments during this time. After an internal investigation, Garcia was placed on leave, and ultimately fired.

Hirst sued Garcia for sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act. She also sued the city, alleging failure to supervise and failure to take prompt action to prevent sexual harassment.

For his part, Garcia claimed that the sexual banter was consensual. He ultimately settled with Hirst on the second day of a four week trial. Details of the settlement between Garcia and Hirst were not available.

At trial, counsel for the city argued that the city wasn't aware of the harassment for most of the time period in question, and that when it did become aware of the situation, it took prompt, remedial action -- including firing Garcia. Hirst, through attorney Dwight F. Ritter, argued that the investigation took too long, and that she was continually harassed and retaliated against during the investigation.

The jury agreed, finding that Garcia and the city were liable for $1.5 million in damages to Hirst. Garcia was found to be 25 percent at fault, but because he had settled the case, no judgment was entered against him. Hirst was awarded a $1,125,000 judgment against the city for the remaining 75 percent of fault.

Attorney's fees were not part of the judgment, though post-trial motions claiming entitlement to fees were filed by Hirst.

See: Hirst v. Garcia, et al., Superior Court of San Diego, Vista Division, Case No. 37-2010-00101050-CU-PO-NC (April 17, 2013).

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Related legal case

Hirst v. Garcia, et al.



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