Jury rules against Largo company in sexual harassment case

Published May 2, 2013

TAMPA — A federal jury has awarded more than $20 million in damages to eight former employees of a Largo travel company where male managers were accused of groping and sexually harassing female workers.

The total payout will be less because of a federal cap on damages.

Seven of the former employees are women who were victims of the harassment. One is a man who was fired after reporting the harassment, said St. Petersburg lawyer Patrice Pucci, who represented three of the plaintiffs.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2011 filed the lawsuit against Four Amigos Travel and Top Dog Travel Inc. after two women brought the allegations to light.

Four Amigos and Top Dog, which operate out of Largo, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, are high-volume telemarketers of Florida vacation packages.

The suit accused the Largo office general manager and eight sales managers of daily harassment, including asking female subordinates to have sex in the restroom, making suggestive gestures and leading meeting discussions on such topics as "how to please a woman."

Five of the former employees were part of only the EEOC's case, which means their punitive awards are limited by law to $200,000 each. Three others hired Pucci and gained "intervenor" status, which means their awards aren't capped. All eight were also awarded back pay.

Pucci said the next step is to try to recover the money. She said the defendants did not show up for the trial, which began Monday and ended Tuesday. She noted that some of the victims were older women, one of them 61.

"They all had similarly repugnant things to say about how they were treated," she said.

"This was a long journey for these women who were forced to work under unspeakable conditions at this workplace," Gregory Lee McClinton, the EEOC's lead attorney in the case, said in a statement.