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Jury Returns Verdict In Hooters Harassment Case
NBC 5 Chicago ^ | November 23, 2004 | NBC 5 Chicago

Posted on 11/23/2004 8:24:42 PM PST by Land_of_Lincoln_John

CHICAGO -- U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, presiding in a sexual harassment suit filed by a former waitress at a Hooters restaurant, sent the jurors out to deliberate about 3:35 p.m. Tuesday.

At 8 p.m., the jurors returned with a verdict in favor of Joanna Ciesielski, the waitress who brought the lawsuit.

The jury awarded Ciesielski $25,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages.

"My mom and dad always told me from the very beginning that the truth will set you free, and it's true," Ciesielski said after the verdict.

Hooters' attorneys filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the punitive damages because the plaintiff did not present evidence to support it. St. Eve said she would withhold entering the verdict until after the motion and attorneys' fees are resolved.

Lawyers for the defendant also said Ciesielski's attorney, John De Rose, needed to prove that Hooters management officials, such as the chief executive officer or a company vice president, were involved in the harassment. But De Rose said the jury was correct in awarding damages because assistant managers and managers were also hired management officials.

Under the law, a jury can return a verdict with any amount as long as the compensatory and punitive damages do not exceed $300,000, De Rose said after court.

When asked if he was concerned about the judge considering reversing the jury's decision on punitive damages, De Rose said, "We're always worried when the court hasn't given it all (to us) yet."

Attorneys finished calling all the witnesses and presented their closing arguments Tuesday afternoon.

De Rose told jurors that Hooters Management Corp. and Hooters on Higgins, Inc. did nothing to prevent peepholes from being created and they did nothing to stop his client from being harassed by kitchen staff and managers.

De Rose said his client did sign a Hooters document upon employment that discusses corporate policies. He called the document a "CYA -- Cover Your (expletive)" document that all the waitresses had to sign.

Although the document said employees could report complaints to corporate offices in Clearwater, Fla., De Rose said Ciesielski would not call Florida because she was making her complaints to the managers at the restaurant.

Ciesielski noticed a peephole in the dressing room on April 27, 2001, and refused to change in the room anymore, De Rose said. The hole was eventually fixed, but it reappeared some time later.

When the maintenance man fixed the hole for a second time, he made the comment that it was not the first time he had fixed the hole for "those perverts," De Rose told the jury. The "perverts" were the kitchen staff who Ciesielski believed made the holes.

The maintenance man once wrote in the manager's red log book that he had fixed the hole in the wall adjoining the dressing and break rooms, but general manager Lisa Cooper said the incident should not have been documented in the book because it was a sensitive issue, De Rose said.

The holes were never mentioned in the manager's red book, and neither were Ciesielski's harassment complaints, said De Rose, and added that the staff had a code of silence about the complaints.

In addition to the peepholes, Ciesielski was subjected to sexual comments by a manager and kitchen staff, as well as touched by a couple managers, De Rose said. The lawyer added that nothing was done about it.

"Management of Hooters was out of control," De Rose said.

Despite the problems, "Joanna wasn't going to run out," he continued. She decided to stay and fight.

Defense attorney Ray Pesavento said in his closing arguments that there was no sexual harassment regarding the peephole because no one could see through it.

"It was physically impossible to look through any of those holes," Pesavento told the jurors. "There was no peephole at any time at Hooters O'Hare."

Pesavento asked how kitchen staff could make sexual comments to her if no one could see through the hole.

Ciesielski believed the kitchen staff was laughing at her as she undressed in the changing room one day, but the laughter did not coincide with how she was changing, Pesavento said. He recalled Ciesielski's testimony and how she was not sure if the laughter was coming from the break room.

Pesavento said he agreed with De Rose that there was a conspiracy, but they disagreed on the players in that conspiracy.

Pesavento said Ciesielski and four other waitresses conspired to get money from Hooters.

He also noted how Ciesielski was the first one to find the holes, which seemed to appear only when she was in the dressing room.

Pesavento said when Ciesielski was on leave from Hooters so she could take a college class, no holes appeared between September 2001 and January 2002. But once Ciesielski returned to work, the holes reappeared. Ciesielski had to return to work so she could finish the conspiracy, he added.

Pesavento said the hole shown in pictures during the trial was the same small hole everyone testified they could not see through. He said Ciesielski had an interest in seeing that hole enlarge because her former attorney told her that she did not have a case unless someone could actually peek inside the room.

As for the comments and touching Ciesielski said she endured by a manager, Pesavento recalled testimony from another former waitress who burst out laughing when asked if that manager touched her inappropriately.

As for the inappropriate comments she said kitchen staff had made, Pesavento told the jurors that in a restaurant, cooks and waitress often yell at each other, and sometimes the language turns vulgar. But, he added, that does not constitute sexual harassment. If Ciesielski takes these arguments as sexual harassment, than she is emotionally disturbed, Pesavento said.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: Illinois
KEYWORDS: hooters; peepingtoms

1 posted on 11/23/2004 8:24:43 PM PST by Land_of_Lincoln_John
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To: Land_of_Lincoln_John

now she can go flash her breasts at some other idiots so she and her scumbag lawyer cohorts can get a bit richer

2 posted on 11/23/2004 8:26:25 PM PST by steplock (
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To: steplock

Maybe. But the peepholes are a total no no.

3 posted on 11/23/2004 8:28:57 PM PST by BunnySlippers (George W. Bush is our president ... Get over it!)
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To: steplock
Next thing you know, hookers will be filing sexual harassment lawsuits...

.....and winning.

4 posted on 11/23/2004 8:29:49 PM PST by Right Brother
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To: Land_of_Lincoln_John
"CYA -- Cover Your (expletive)" document that all the waitresses had to sign.

Meanwhile, they go out of their way to expose their "(expletive)'s on the floor for tips? Sounds kinda weak...

5 posted on 11/23/2004 8:31:25 PM PST by Libloather (RED REGIONS ROCK!)
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To: steplock; Libloather

Please. Showing cleavage is not the same as flashing one's breasts. Sakes.

6 posted on 11/23/2004 8:57:51 PM PST by Prime Choice (I like Democrats, too. Let's exchange recipes.)
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To: Land_of_Lincoln_John
"My mom and dad always told me from the very beginning that the truth will set you free, and it's true," Ciesielski said after the verdict.

They must be so proud of their daughter...

7 posted on 11/23/2004 9:08:25 PM PST by IncPen (There is nothing that government can give a man that wasn't taken under threat of force from another)
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To: Prime Choice
Please. Showing cleavage is not the same as flashing one's breasts. Sakes.

Please. Check out Miss December in the 2004 Hooter's calender. (Those temps during the winter months can sure get nippley - eh?)

And I really haven't heard all that many complaints - from you or her...

8 posted on 11/23/2004 9:17:40 PM PST by Libloather (Help stop the abuse of the meleagris. Please spay or neuter your turkey...)
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