By Alex Wood, Journal Inquirer
November 17, 2000
A Glastonbury woman who charged in a federal lawsuit that she was sexually harassed while working at Electric Boat’s former nuclear operation has won $300,000 from the company, which did not appeal the court judgment in her favor.
The woman, Judith Dobrich, 56, won a $750,000 jury verdict against EB, a division of General Dynamics Corp., in a May trial in U.S. District Court in Waterbury.
In a decision issued in July, Senior judge Gerard L. Goettel reduced the award to $300,000 because of a cap in federal law.
But, in the same decision, Goettel rejected motions by EB to overturn the jury verdict, saying there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that the company responded inadequately to harassment of Dobrich by her male co-workers.
Dobrich’s lawyer, Robert B. Muchinsky of Hartford, said EB’s deadline for filing an appeal has passed, making the $300,000 judgment final. Court records show that the judge also ordered EB to pay Muchinsky an additional $137,823 in legal fees.
An EB spokesman had no immediate comment.
But Dobrich, who has made clear throughout the lawsuit that she considers it a cause rather than a mere personal grievance, said that she is “thrilled” that the outcome of her case may benefit others who experience sexual harassment.
“It’s god that it’s out there & that it can be used as a reference point for other women or men who are in the same situation as far as gender discrimination,” she said.
She also expressed relief that she is free of the emotional pressure of the lawsuit.
“Each day I’m further from the case, I feel a little better,” she said.
Dobrich worked for EB from June 1994 to January 1996 as a laborer on the Windsor site, where the e company was decommissioning a prototype nuclear reactor dating from the 1950’s for the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory. She was the sole woman working in a trade job on the site.
She alleged a series of harassing acts by male co-workers, including lewd drawings & displays in the workplace, use of bad language & insulting remarks, & three instances of unwanted touching by one co-worker.
She argued that the harassment included an incident in which her wrist was injured when another worker kicked a chair at her. In a separate incident, she said, her chair was slashed while she was away from her job in what she believed was an attempt to terrorize her.
EB argued that its managers responded appropriately when Dobrich complained about misconduct by co-workers. The company’s lawyers stressed during the trial that the worker involved in the touching incidents was given a final written waning, meaning that one more incident could have led to his firing.
They also contended that Dobrich didn’t report a number of the incidents.
The jury’s award included $100,000 in punitive damages, which federal law says can be awarded when an employer engages in discrimination “ with malice or reckless indifference” to a person’s rights.
But Goettel threw out part of the award in his July decision, saying he couldn’t find support for such a conclusion in the trial record.
The judge also called the jury’s award of $650,000 in compensatory damages “far too high”, saying he would have reduced the award even if the $300,000 cap in federal law didn’t require him to do so.