Former Precinct 5 employee awarded $250K

May 25, 2009 9:23:12 PM PDT
A federal jury awarded a former Harris County employee a quarter of a million dollars Monday night. She filed three lawsuits, one of which was against her former boss, the late Constable Glen Cheek. She claims Cheek sexually harassed her. Seven jurors deliberated for about four and a half hours at the federal courthouse before reaching their decision Monday.

Attorneys representing the former lieutenant with Precinct 5 call Kimberly Owen's story one of hate and discrimination. While a jury said she was not sexually harassed by Cheek, they did award her $253,000 for sexual harassment by a sitting captain.

"He would publicly humiliate her in front of her subordinates by saying, 'Ms. Owen is not here. Where is she? Why isn't she at work?'" said Scott Newar, attorney for the plaintiff. "He tried in every which way he could to make her look like she was incompetent and ineffective."

"I think it took a lot of guts for her to come forward like she did and I know it was a very painful experience," said Karen Hurwitz, attorney for the plaintiff. "But I'm proud of her. I'm happy for her. And I'm really happy that the citizens of Harris County will hear what was going on at Precinct 5."

Owen didn't win her claim of gender discrimination when she was fired in 2006 after an alleged DWI stop in Montgomery County. Charges were dropped, but she was never offered her job back and claims she was denied due process.

Assistants with the Harris County's District's Attorney's Office said there was, "No evidence her (Owen's) termination was due to gender." They say, "Constable Cheek promoted her five times" and reminded jurors in closing arguments that, "Some employees testified that he (Cheek) could be cruel to both men and women."

There's no word on whether or not the county will appeal the ruling. Given the holiday, we have not yet heard a response from Precinct 5 on the verdict.

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