Firefighters win harassment judgment, $34,300 in damages (Forced To Be In Homosexual Parade)
"I bet The Lesbian Fire Chief is Pissed !"
SAN DIEGO – A jury found four San Diego firefighters who sued the city were sexually harassed after being ordered to participate in a gay pride parade. They also determined the group must split $34,300 in damages.
Jurors deliberated for about two-and-a-half days before reaching the verdict Tuesday in the case brought by firefighters John Ghiotto, Jason Hewitt, Alex Kane and Chad Allison. The firemen said they were subjected to sexually charged conduct and lewd comments while riding a fire engine in the July 2007 parade.
City attorneys said they will appeal the verdict.
Jurors were required to determine if the firefighters faced pervasive or severe harassment from spectators and participants.
Nancy Chiquete, the jury foreperson, said reaching the decision was “not easy,” particularly because she said she lives in the city and knows its financial situation is not good.
But, Chiquete said, “I felt truly like these four men were wronged by the situation.” The case was first heard in September but that jury was unable to reach a verdict on the sexual harassment claim.
The jury did not know how much money the firefighters had asked for in the first trial, Chiquete said. She said that throughout the trial, the firefighters said they wanted to make a point and prevent the situation from happening to others and wanted to have the department's policy changed.
“So, I think in that sense, hopefully they got what they wanted,” she said.
The firefighters' attorney, Charles LiMandri, said he and his clients were pleased.
“We won on every issue. This is what we've been fighting for. It's what we've been working for. It's been what we've been hoping for,” LiMandri said.
He acknowledged that the awarded damages were low, but said that wasn't surprising given the poor state of the economy.
During the first trial, LiMandri requested up to $1 million for each of his clients. He did not request an award from the jury during the second trial. The firemen said they were subjected to cat-calls and saw barely clothed men simulate sex acts along the route on University Avenue in Hillcrest. At some point during the three-hour parade, the four put on headphones and rolled up their windows and stared straight ahead. The experience, they said, made them suffer stress-related problems such as headaches, anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome.
“The money was never an issue for us. We never went in it for the money," Ghiotto said. “We should never have even had to go to court.”
Ghiotto said the verdict “goes to show that there was some wrongdoing and we finally got the truth out and we prevailed and I'm happy with it.”