Live 5 Investigates: Sexual harassment costs us all

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Experts say sexual harassment on the job costs us all.

It hits your pocketbook with payouts by our state government, insurance, and places where you do business.

We've uncovered some surprising places where it happened and why you haven't heard about it.

Our state government insurance has paid close to three million dollars over the past ten years over claims of sexual harassment in our government agencies.

The cases come from our area schools, in law enforcement, even a judge's office and the county parks department.

Attorney Jennifer Munter Stark represented a Charleston County parks worker who lost her job after complaining of sexual harassment.

But Munter Stark can't reveal any details about the case or her client because of a confidentiality agreement.

"A confidentiality provision is the bread and butter of the agreement," Munter Stark said. "It's likely the corporation is going to say either it didn't happen or you cannot prove it in court because the laws are very friendly to the employer."

We went digging through court records to find the park worker's complaint.

She claimed of "touching, grabbing, kissing on the mouth" as well as urinating in her presence.

According to court records, her supervisors did not believe her.

In 2014, our state government insurance paid her $35,000. But our insurance paid more than $189,000 in legal expenses to defend the parks department in the two cases the worker filed.

The man accused kept his job until his retirement.

At The Citadel, two men complained of sexual harassment.

"In one case it was alleged that the victim was harassed by a woman, and another had alleged that his workplace was a hostile workplace because of some comments his co-workers were making," said Col. John Dorrian.

A total of $27,000 was paid to the two men who complained.

"It's not acceptable in any instance, no matter if you're a man or a woman," Dorrian said.

He said the entire Citadel workplace went through sexual harassment prevention training.

The training is required for new hires, and renewal classes are required for all active employees.

"No one should declare a victory though with regard to sexual harassment, because it can happen in any organization," Dorian said."It requires constant attention."

When it does happen, attorney Munter Stark explained, "The first line of defense is to tell somebody, tell your supervisor."

According to court records, in a Berkeley County middle school, a custodial worker claimed she reported inappropriate behavior, but claimed it made things worse, contending a custodian "fully exposed himself" and referred to his body part as "his monster."

In a Berkeley County elementary cafeteria, a worker claimed a maintenance man "wished to have oral sex (with her)."

The price tag on those two cases was more than $99,000.

The two women who complained were awarded a total of $26,500, and legal expenses to defend the Berkeley County School District were $72,500.29.

Two cases against a retired probate judge grabbed headlines in Beaufort, but the public was never told the cost.

Records show a combined total of $84,500 was paid to the two women, and legal expenses to defend the two cases added up to $100,856.35

The expenses go beyond insurance payments. Often, there is emotional and economic turmoil.

"These are tough, tough cases," said Munter Stark.

She said they are difficult to prove, so the victim often quits, and says nothing.

"Most people don't complain, don't do anything," she explained.

"It is just a toxic thing in the workplace. It's a toxic thing to the public perception of your organization, so it's not something you're going to take lightly," said Dorrian. "You want to take action to prevent these types of things."

Our totals show payouts for alleged sexual harassment add up to just under a million dollars to the men and women who filed complaints.

Legal fees to defend the government agencies, are twice that, for a total of just under $3,000,000.

But not all agencies use our Insurance Reserve Fund, so the real price tag on sexual harassment inside our government agencies, could actually be much higher.

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