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Mediation in sexual harassment case leads to settlement

Anyone who works with employment law matters on a day-to-day basis would probably be able to tell our Colorado readers that there are certain occupations where sexual harassment is, unfortunately, more likely to occur. These occupations, such as law enforcement and the military, have for years been viewed as more male-centric professions, although in the last decade or so we have seen very encouraging steps forward. Problems will persist, however, and that appears to have been the case in one sheriff's office.

According to reports, three female detectives who worked for the King County Sheriff's Office, in Seattle, recently settled their sexual harassment lawsuit for $1 million. The subject of the lawsuit appears to have been the behavior of two male sergeants in particular, who the women allege subjected them to "verbal abuse" and "belittling behavior" over the course of several years.

One particularly interesting bit of news associated with this lawsuit is that the settlement was reached after the parties agreed to participate in mediation. For those of our Colorado readers who may not know about mediation, it is becoming more acceptable these days as a way to avoid the enormous costs of litigation that both sides incur if a lawsuit plays out in a courtroom. In this case, the reports indicate that the three women had an initial demand of $6 million, but after a day of mediation, which usually involves a back-and-forth exchange of offers, demands and concessions, the parties ultimately settled at $1 million.

There are further requirements in the settlement, as is usually the case. In addition to the funds that are to be paid, the King County Sheriff's Office will be conducting sexual harassment prevention training on an annual basis, and will also be issuing an apology via internal email. Lastly, as is usually the case in a settlement like this, the King County Sheriff's Office did not admit liability.

Source: The Seattle Times, "County to pay $1 million to 3 detectives in sex-harassment case," Steve Miletich, Dec. 18, 2013

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