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Sunday, June 30, 2013
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Ex-city worker's case to be tried
Fired bight janitor claims sex harassment

A former Key West Bight janitor's sexual harassment case against the city will be tried here on June 15.

Mediation efforts in Vilma Quintana's federal lawsuit failed in April, as did the city's bid for U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez to throw out the case. The city argued that Quintana wasn't fired out of retaliation, but because she was a poor employee, according to court documents.

Quintana, who was fired Aug. 22, 2011, alleges the city failed to protect her against the sexual advances of her boss, Jean Abellard, who allegedly groped her and spied on her in the bathroom, among other things listed in the civil lawsuit.

In its motion for summary judgment, the city argued that: "Jean Abellard never physically threatened her, never engaged in any inappropriate sexual conversation, and never engaged in any sexually humiliating conduct."

In a joint pretrial motion, the city said Quintana "was not subjected to a workplace that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment and create an abusive working environment."

Assistant City Attorney Larry Erskine didn't comment on the case, citing city policy against talking about ongoing litigation.

Martin Saenz of Aventura is representing Quintana.

"One thing that surprises me is that the city is denying my client filed a second claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission," said Saenz.

"She filed three: one for the reassessment, the second one to remind the EEOC that her supervisor hadn't stopped, and a third after she was fired.

"They're not acknowledging that second notice, because it's in closer proximity to the first complaint," he said.

"For example, if I complain about you today and you fire me 10 years later, that's not the same as filing a complaint in November and being fired in December."

Quintana was hired by the city on April 18, 2006.

She claims that starting February 2010, Abellard became "obsessed" with her.

He began to "continuously follow her around and to intensively (on a daily basis) look at Ms. Quintana with lust for sex," states the eight-page lawsuit that was filed on July 27, 2012.

She says in the suit that she rejected his advances and asked him to stop many times, but Abellard continued to harass her.

Abellard once allegedly grabbed her genitalia, according to court documents.

Quintana claims that another time, she was exposed and about to use the restroom when she realized Abellard was spying on her.

"Ms. Quintana panicked, pulled up her pants and as fast as she could stormed out of the ladies restroom, screaming to Abellard that he should not be in the ladies restroom and to get out of the way," the lawsuit states.

Quintana is asking for back pay, punitive and compensatory damages as well as up to $55,000 in legal fees.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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