A Texas lawman was awarded $567,000 by a jury who found that he was the victim of sexual harassment from his female boss.
Former Galveston County Deputy Constable James Gist, 51, sued the county and claimed ex-Constable Pam Matranga repeatedly sexually harassed him from May 2011 to October 2011 by asking him to touch her breasts, pulling her shirt over his head and pretending to give him a lap dance. The Galveston County jury awarded damages to Gist on Friday.
Anthony Griffin, Gist’s attorney, told the Houston Chronicle that the jury awarded Gist $200,000 more than he was seeking in damages. He also said the jury’s decision showed that gender didn’t play a role in the case.
“They rejected this whole notion that you get away with [sexual harassment] because you are a female," Griffin said. The attorney blamed Galveston County for not doing enough to stop Matranga’s behavior, noting that she was known to pull her shirt over her deputies’ heads (Matranga admitted to the behavior at trial but denied doing it to Griffin) and often made off-color jokes.
"It was about sex, and it was about power," Griffin told the Galveston County Daily News about the case. “The only way she could engage in such conduct is because of that badge on her blouse."
Matranga slammed the jury’s decision, calling the award unfair. She said Gist wanted to get back at her for refusing to promote him, according to the Chronicle.
“It was a circus for the last two years,” she told the paper, referring to the lawsuit, which was filed in early 2012. “It was a horrible, horrible time. Mr. Gist said he would make my life a living hell, and that’s what he did.”
Barry Willey, the attorney representing the county in the sexual harassment suit, said Gist willingly participated in the behavior in an attempt to record it and cash in. Willey told the Daily News that Gist should have complained to human resources.
"He didn't want to try to stop the behavior," Willey said. "He wanted to try to record the behavior and hit it big."
Gist resigned in 2011, when the district attorney investigated him for trying to get evidence of the sexual harassment, according to the Daily News. Gist was cleared of any wrongdoing and now works for the Clear Lake Shores Police Department. Matranga lost her re-election bid for county constable in a May 2012 primary.