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Judge Throws Out $700,000 Verdict in Miami Beach Firefighter's Sexual Harassment Suit UPDATED

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Marlenis Smart describes her seven years as a firefighter as a nightmare. In a lawsuit filed in 2010, she claimed she was sexually harassed by co-workers from her first day on the job. Male firefighters told her "women belong in the kitchen," accused her of being a slut, and walked in on her in the shower. A bathing suit was stolen from her locker and spattered with semen. Her bra was hung from the rafters. She even received death threats.

A federal judge decided Tuesday that although the treatment was "abhorrent and unprofessional," it did not amount to sexual harassment. The judge also took the unusual step of stripping Smart of her $700,000 jury award. The firefighter intends to appeal.

See also:
- Miami Beach Fire Department Is Aflame With Corruption And Abuse


UPDATE: Smart called New Times to explain her outrage over the reversal. "If what happened to me wasn't sexual harassment, then what is?"

U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke sided with the City of Miami Beach, ruling that Smart's abuse did not amount to sexual harassment.

"The incidents Ms. Smart identifies were single-occurring instances that, while inappropriate, vulgar, and offensive, were not severe," she wrote in her order, according to the Miami Herald. "Given that there were three to four incidents over a five-year period, it certainly was not pervasive."

Cooke added that the conflicts between Smart and her co-workers resulted because of "personality conflicts" or "co-workers' perception of her being difficult to work with."

Despite vacating Smart's $700,000 award, Cooke did deliver a scathing rebuke of the city's fire department. "This is no way to run a railroad," the judge added.

Smart, who was hired in 2005 and has continued to work as a firefighter during legal proceedings, was angry at the reversal. She points out to New Times that Cook took her side when granting summary judgment last year.

"How can a judge rule in my favor, basically saying that yes, these things happened to me, and now she is going back on her word?" Smart asks. She believes that the City of Miami Beach heaped pressure on the judge. "It looked like she just wanted to wash her hands of this."

Smart is one of several firefighters to sue the city in recent years. In 2005, Jim Llewellyn filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Miami Beach when he was fired following his complaints.

Last year, African-American fire recruit Brian Gentles filed a discrimination complaint against the city after he was allegedly tea-bagged and racially abused by another recruit.

And Ed Gonzalez, a fire captain who says he was forced out last year after reporting corruption and abuses of authority, is considering litigation.

Unlike Gonzalez, however, Smart is still working as a firefighter. She says Cook's u-turn will make things much worse for her.

"You have no idea what I'm going to have to go through in my job now," she says. "Do you think that anybody is going to want to work with me now? People are going to think that I'm a liar."

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes. Follow this journalist on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.

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12 comments
Women_suck
Women_suck

come on fire chief grow a few and end this bitch

Justwork
Justwork

The thing that is missed here is that she lied about everything to get a big payoff. Not one bit of evidence to prove anything, not one of 200 other firefighters, men and women would back up anything she lied about. With one other female firefighter even testifying that she had been planning to sue from day one. Finally a win for the taxpayers.

Women_suck
Women_suck

Good job Miami Beach stand up to your stupid employee's

Women_suck
Women_suck

I am glad the judge overturned the verdict...and the city stood their ground..This should be lesson to you.That when you lie you will never succeed in life. Honesty is always the best answer. Its clear here that this woman lied. And most likely will lie again and file new lawsuit filled with lies.

dpicardat
dpicardat

Miami Beach is in it to win it! Some say you can't fight city hall; others say, lick your chops and move on; and, some of us no matter what the odds are ... Don't give up. I was lucky to have Allison Leonard (Patino and Assoc.) and you can win it also.

Dale L Picardat, Jr.

k3pgx
k3pgx

RAILROADers that is

k3pgx
k3pgx

YEP: " inappropriate, vulgar and offensive" is still OK at the city. Where is the leadership? Oh yeah they ARE the RAILROAD.

internetinternet
internetinternet

Miami Beach has several million dollars worth of wrongful death cases that have not been settled to the best of my knowledge.  Governments job it to protect itself from judgements.  This case will put lawyers on notice not to file anything against Miami Beach. 

Indira Dayanna
Indira Dayanna

Judge Cooke, "lmao" fits the picture. Unfortunately 1994 VAWA is reauthorized this year and I was 10 years old in 1994.

jgcamp99
jgcamp99

Yeah, it makes perfect sense to me, reverse the payout, so that the politicians can steal it for themselves ?

Karina Tellez
Karina Tellez

Okay but if she would've decked one of them in the face the day she really got tired of the harassment, would she have been taken down for aggravated assault? I'd really like to know, because I do not understand how all of that doesn't amount to sexual harassment

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