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Appeals Court Upholds Commission's Sexual Harassment Award of $900,000

Tuesday, April 5, 2005
On March 31, 2005, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed the Human Rights Commission's award of $900,000 in compensatory damages plus attorneys' fees in the sexual harassment case of Birch v. Psychiatric Institute of Washington and National Medical Enterprises. This matter stems from a complaint filed by Ric Birch, a gay man and former employee of PIW, who alleged that his female supervisor created a hostile work environment through sexual harassment. In addition, Mr. Birch alleged that his supervisor retaliated against him after he reported the harassment to Institute officials who failed to take any corrective action. As a result, Mr. Birch developed a major depressive disorder, a permanent mental ailment that was triggered by the hostile work environment. At the Commission hearing, the parties stipulated that Mr. Birch's supervisor's actions amounted to sexual harassment. However, the parties did not stipulate to retaliation. In reviewing the Commission's decision, the Appeal Court agreed that the actions taken by Mr. Birch's supervisor were retaliatory and that the $900,000 award was reasonable under the circumstances. This is the largest compensatory damage award ever ordered by the Commission. For more information about this case, you may contact the Human Rights Commission at (202) 727-0656.