Judge Sustains Harassment Ruling, But Delays Deciding Damage Sum
Federal Judge W. Arthur Garrity, Jr. yesterday sustained a March jury verdict that found the University liable for sexual discrimination suffered by a former Facilities Maintenance employee.
Garrity postponed, however, a ruling on the crucial item of this spring's jury verdict--the $75,000 in damages the jury assessed against the University. A clerk said Garrity will make a decision on appropriateness of the award some time this month.
Garrity, who presided over the two-week long sexual discrimination trial of Charlotte Walters this spring, yesterday made one of his last decisions in the case, in response to a request by Harvard lawyers.
Walters charged that Harvard discriminated against her when she was an employee by not responding to her complaints of harassment on the job. Walters, who in 1979 was the second woman to work in her department, testified that one employee threatened her and later threw a lit firecracker at her.
During the two-week trial, Garrity and the jury seemed at odds over whether Harvard was to blame and whether Harvard's actions constituted sexual harassment.
In the four decisions he had to decide and in his pre-empting an issue for the jury, Garrity concluded that Harvard's treatment of Walters was not motivated by gender discrimination. The jury, after two days of deliberation, ruled that the University's conduct violated a contractual agreement to treat men and women equally.
The conflicting decisions have prompted both sides in the case to say they will appeal the case.
In handing down yesterday's decision Garrity said that the six-member jury's ruling should stand because there was sufficient evidence for the jury to reach its conclusion. In court, however, Garrity had said he personally disagreed with the jury's decision.
One of the lawyers representing Walters, Jane Rocamora, said she was pleased that Garrity could uphold the legality of a decision he did not agree with. "His decision is a very good thing. I am glad that his views did not make him see the evidence in a colored way," she said.
Walters said yesterday that the ruling would help lay the groundwork for an upcoming appeal. "The judge upheld the jury's decision that Harvard was guilty, which is the most important thing. This puts us in excellent position for appealing the case," she said.
Walters has said she will appeal the case even if Garrity upholds the damage award because without a ruling by a judge that Harvard violateddiscrimination laws--as opposed to the terms ofits contracts--there can be no institutionalchanges at the University.
Harvard's lawyers argued during the trial thatWalters failed to take advantage of theestablished grievance procedures at theUniversity.
Harvard attorney Allan A. Ryan. Jr. asked incourt motions that Garrity reduce the jury'sdamage award, claiming that under state lawemotional distress claims should not receivemonetary awards.
Ryan declined to comment on whether theUniversity will appeal the case, saying "We willwait and see what happens with Garrity'sdecision.