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The jury finds that the woman's firing was retaliatory for reporting sexual harassment.
Published Nov. 20, 2012

A jury awarded a former security guard $7,500 in a sexual harassment case against the owner of the Dade City Business Center.

Wanda J. Carter worked as a security guard from September 2010 to May 2011 at the business center on U.S. 301. According to her lawsuit, an employee at Stiefel Aluminum known as "Hillbilly" would "moon" people, expose himself and perform simulated sex acts at work.

Carter, one of two female guards, complained around May 1 to the business' owner, Jack Stiefel, who said "if she were a man this wouldn't be a problem," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also says Carter complained to others, including a supervisor at JDR Properties of Pasco, which owns the business center and employed the security guards.

She was later fired. Her lawsuit sought lost wages until the present date.

After deliberating about two hours Wednesday night, the jury did not find that JDR's actions constituted harassment but did find her firing was retaliatory. However, jurors awarded $7,500 because JDR terminated its entire security force shortly after Carter was fired and hired an outside contractor.

"It's a bittersweet victory," said Carter's attorney, Ron Fraley. "But she feels like she was vindicated."

Hutch Brock, attorney for JDR Properties, said when the case was filed that Carter never complained to the business center about such a matter. He said this week that the company had offered to settle the matter for roughly the same amount as the verdict, but Carter wouldn't accept it.

"We wanted to do the right thing," he said.

Brock had argued Stiefel Aluminum was the one that should have been held liable. However, Carter did not work for that company, so her suit against that firm was dismissed.