Student in sexual harassment trial gets $1; lawyers awarded $305K in fees
MINNEAPOLIS — A University of Minnesota graduate student who accused a colleague of sexual harassment was awarded just $1 in March, but her lawyers will get much more than that.
U.S. District Judge John Tunheim last week ordered U.S. Fish and Wildlife scientist Ted Swem to pay $305,000 in fees to Stephanie Jenkins' attorneys.
Jenkins was 29 when she spent four weeks in 2011 studying falcons in remote Alaska with Swem, then 59. She said he took a photo of her backside, told dirty jokes and made repeated and unwelcome requests for a physical relationship.
Jenkins quit school the next year and abandoned her career plans.
At trial in March, a jury found Swem created a hostile work environment but there was no monetary value to the harm that was done.
Still, Jenkins technically won the case, so Swem was responsible for $18,900 in court costs plus Jenkins' attorney fees.
Jenkins' attorneys, Joseph A. Larson, David Schlesigner and Janet Olawsky, said they had done $802,000 worth of work.
Tunheim reduced the award to $305,000, writing that Jenkins "did not achieve great success during litigation" and that some of the billed hours were for duplicative work done by her multiple attorneys.
The judge rejected Swem's argument that it would be unreasonable to award attorney's fees for a technical victory.
"The jury's verdict in this case confirms that Swem's conduct was illegal," Tunheim wrote.
"Preventing sexual harassment to enable broad participation of all genders in the workforce is an important public goal."