7/30/2014

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KATU Investigators

Jury orders city to pay woman $19K after religious harassment

Jury orders city to pay woman $19K after religious harassment

PORTLAND, Ore. – The city of Portland has to fork over more than $19,000 to a city employee and part of it is because of the phrase "God bless you."

Kellymarie Griffin said she was being harassed for being Christian. She sued and won.

In her lawsuit, Griffin said that a co-worker had chided her at one point, saying she prayed to a God who was simply a figment of her imagination.

But a federal jury decided the harassment Griffin suffered was all too real.

The drama played out inside the Parks Bureau offices at the Mount Tabor maintenance yard during the past four years.

Griffin was transferred here in October 2009 and said her co-worker, Theresa Lareau, almost immediately started harassing her because of her Christian beliefs.

According to the federal lawsuit, Griffin contends Lareau said, "I'm tired of your Christian attitude."

The lawsuit also contends Lareau added, "I'm going to file a complaint against you the next time I sneeze and you say 'bless you.' You're just doing it for the attention; you wear it on your sleeve like a badge and I'm sick of it. It offends me."

There were a series of complaints and meetings involving two separate parks bureau supervisors.

Meanwhile, Lareau filed paperwork of her own, seeking a civil stalking order against Griffin in March of last year.

Lareau went through five attorneys before finally representing herself. She never got the stalking order.

A federal jury last week sided with Griffin.

It awarded her just over $5,000 in economic damages and $14,000 in noneconomic damages, deciding her workplace became a hostile work environment based on her religion.

The federal jury also decided Lareau may have thought she was right to file for a stalking order against Griffin but that Lareau also went way too far in trying to get one over and over and over again.

They also found Lareau wasn't totally honest with her attorneys in seeking that stalking order.

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