A jury has awarded $2.8 million to a former Essex County, N.J., sheriff's officer who said she suffered sexual harassment by other officers because she is a lesbian. The Union County jury returned the verdict Monday for Karen Caggiano following a three-week trial.
Caggiano, 43, of Bridgewater, testified that she was forced to use the same bathroom and locker room as male officers when she worked at the sheriff's office during the late 1990s and that pictures of naked women were repeatedly posted on lockers. She was also subjected to acts of lewdness, with one sheriff's officer repeatedly exposing himself to her, according to her lawyers.
Lawyer Neil Mullin said the department issued a "whitewashed" internal affairs report that found no merit to her complaints. Caggiano's superiors acted maliciously and intended to hurt her, Mullin told The [Newark] Star-Ledger for Tuesday newspapers.
Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura had no immediate comment Tuesday on whether the department would appeal, a spokesman said.
Rosemary Alito, who represented Essex County at the trial, maintained that the department made a thorough response to Caggiano's complaints. The trial was held in Union County instead of Essex County to avoid conflicts of interest.