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Friday, January 18, 2008

[VA] The victory for Deputy Lespia King is a victory for many

..."Sexual harassment isn't solely about sex. It's also about power"... On Wednesday, a jury awarded $325,000 to Lespia King, who said her four years as a city deputy were spent in fear of McMillan's forceful hugs and requests that she leave her boyfriend, another deputy, for a relationship with the sheriff. "He controlled my job, he controlled my boyfriend's job... He held my career hostage..."
Her lawsuit opened the floodgates for the startling accusations from other women, and showed us: It only takes one...

Ex-sheriff loses harassment case
Lespia King said then-Sheriff George McMillan tormented her with his advances. For that, a jury awarded $325,000 in damages.

By Mike Gangloff mailto:mike.gangloff@roanoke.com
January 17, 2008
George McMillan insisted to the end that the lawsuit filed a few months before he lost the 2005 sheriff's election was about politics. But that didn't seem to register amid 10 women's stories of groping, inappropriate comments and sexual advances, all delivered during a three-day federal trial sparked by a former deputy's sexual harassment claims. On Wednesday, a jury awarded $325,000 to Lespia King, who said her four years as a city deputy were spent in fear of McMillan's forceful hugs and requests that she leave her boyfriend, another deputy, for a relationship with the sheriff. "He controlled my job, he controlled my boyfriend's job... He held my career hostage... I felt he was asking me for sexual favors," King testified Tuesday... King testified she was reduced to hiding under a desk or locking herself in a bathroom to avoid the sheriff. She said she often kept prisoners around her so she would not be alone with McMillan... King's lawsuit included a civil assault and battery claim against McMillan and a sexual harassment claim against the sheriff's office... It was left completely to the jury to determine how much King was owed. King, 29, took the stand again to say she still has nightmares in which McMillan's hands touch her, and said the sheriff robbed her of self-esteem...

Courage can spark change in workplace
Roanoke Times, VA
Shanna Flowers
January 17, 2008
As the top cop at the Roanoke sheriff department, George McMillan was straight out of central casting. Large and imposing. Gregarious and effusive... But this week, the testimony of woman after woman in a sexual harassment case made him out to be a predator - a serial groper who preyed upon women who worked for him or who wanted to... On Wednesday afternoon, jurors believed "her" - plaintiff Lespia King. Despite McMillan's forceful denials, it was hard not to. King was not alone in her complaints. Nine other women -- sheriff's department employees, contractors or applicants -- spoke up after King came forward. They told a federal jury that they had suffered the same kind of behavior at McMillan's hands - literally. This was no ordinary "he said, she said." It was a he said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said... Experts would call the sheriff's office under McMillan's tenure a "hostile" work environment. "Hostile" doesn't quite cut it for me. McMillan's actions as described in sworn testimony by the female victims were humiliating, demeaning, fear-inspiring and power-tripping. Real men don't behave that way... Sexual harassment isn't solely about sex. It's also about power. And that's what gave McMillan the advantage over the women who worked for him. He was plenty powerful. He was a popularly elected sheriff and a huge power broker in the local Democratic Party. Too often employees suffer in silence rather than take on the employer... People do feel alone. They greatly fear retaliation, being black-balled or retaliation from other co-workers." That's what makes King all the more courageous for stepping forward and saying, "no more." Her lawsuit opened the floodgates for the startling accusations from other women, and showed us: It only takes one...

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