Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Florence.
Cameron McGowan Currie, District Judge. (CA-95-952-4-22, CA-95-953-4-22)
Before WILKINSON, Chief Judge, MICHAEL, Circuit Judge, and BUTZNER, Senior Circuit Judge.
Affirmed by published opinion. Chief Judge Wilkinson wrote the opinion, in which Judge Michael and Senior Judge Butzner joined.
Diane Harris and Marina Prasky sued their former employer, L & L Wings, Inc., for sexual harassment in violation of Title VII. A jury awarded Harris and Prasky compensatory and punitive damages. The district court declined to set aside the awards on Wings' post-trial motions. Wings disputes the sufficiency of the evidence for the jury's verdicts and challenges the trial court's award of attorneys' fees to Harris and Prasky. We affirm.
Defendant Wings is a beachwear retailer that had several stores and four warehouses in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area during the time relevant to this lawsuit. Wings employed more than five hundred people year round, a number that swelled to more than one thousand workers during the busy summer season. Harris and Prasky were hourly workers in various capacities in Wings' warehouses. Given that they prevailed before the jury, we must review the evidence on appeal in the light most favorable to them. See Winant v. Bostic, 5 F.3d 767, 774 (4th Cir. 1993).
Harris suffered sexual harassment for much of the time she was employed by Wings. The harassment began in early 1991, when she became assistant floor manager at Wings' Main Warehouse under the supervision of floor manager Ely Levy. This position required Harris to share a desk with Levy. On an almost daily basis, Levy grabbed Harris, embraced her, stroked her hair, massaged her back and shoulders, fondled her legs, and/or followed her around the warehouse. Once Levy pinned Harris against a box and tried to kiss her. In addition to these assaults, Harris endured persistent boasts by Levy about his sexual prowess, offers to promote her in exchange for dating him, and another offer of a hundred dollars if Harris would go to bed with him. Levy even offered to reward Harris' son with a raise if he would convince his mother to go out with him. When Harris resisted Levy's advances and complained to the warehouse manager, Shay Gat, and other members of Wings management about Levy's conduct, the harassment intensified. Levy also retaliated by interfering with Harris' job performance, hiding her paperwork and humiliating her in front of other employees.
While she worked at the Main Warehouse, Harris was placed in uncomfortable situations by other Wings employees as well. Their acts included repeated embraces, continuing attempts to engineer solitary situations, and a swat on her rear end.
Even after Harris escaped the Main Warehouse and Levy's direct supervision, harassment by him continued. In January 1992 Harris became the supervisor of Wings' Warehouses 1 and 2. She still went to the Main Warehouse almost every day to submit paperwork, however, and Levy continued to harass her on a near-daily basis. Every time Harris encountered Levy, he would either touch her or make vulgar comments or sexual advances to her or both. After early 1993, when Harris became supervisor of Warehouse 24, her personal contact with Levy was less frequent, but no less offensive; Levy groped her or made sexually crude remarks to her at virtually every opportunity. The harassment continued unabated until Harris was terminated in July 1993.
While she was employed at Wings, Prasky had to run a similar gauntlet of abuse. When she replaced Harris as Levy's assistant at the Main Warehouse in early 1992, Levy subjected her to much the same treatment as Harris: constant strokes, caresses and embraces as well as verbal harassment, including vulgar comments and sexual advances. When he saw her talking to other employees, he would grab her and say things like, "Don't talk to her. She's my wife," though of course she was not. On one occasion in 1992, Levy showed Prasky a T-shirt depicting frogs in twelve different sexual positions and said to her, "This is what I can do for you." Again, when Prasky resisted Levy's advances and complained to management, Levy got angry and the harassment intensified.
Prasky also suffered persistent harassment at the hands of other Wings employees. Jacky Heby, Wings' General Manager, tugged on her shorts and gestured as if to pull them down nearly every time he encountered her in the warehouse. He made suggestive and offensive remarks, once insisting that he had seen her perform as a stripper, "same size butt, same size breasts," and that he remembered shoving money into her underwear. And on one occasion Heby dismissed Ely Levy from the desk Levy shared with Prasky, sat beside Prasky himself, and grabbed and rubbed her leg. Norman Kleiman, Wings' swimwear buyer, once put his arm around ...