Army pays woman $820,000 to settle sexual harassment case


Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — The Army has paid $820,000 to settle a lawsuit by a former military police trainee who says she was fired after she filed a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor, defense lawyers said Wednesday.

An attorney representing Luydmila Starkey said the payment was one of the largest made by a military branch to settle a sexual harassment case. A notice of dismissal of the 2014 lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California on Wednesday.

Department of Justice lawyers representing the Army declined to comment.

The case was settled shortly before going to trial.

Starkey filed suit alleging her then-supervisor, Sgt. Wayne Lord, sent her sexually explicit text messages and nude photos of himself when she was employed at the Presidio of Monterey, an Army installation in Northern California. The suit said she lost her job after she filed a sexual harassment complaint.

In a statement provided by her attorneys, Starkey said she was ostracized at work. She believes she was fired because Lord was popular, and she dared to report him.

"Rather than support me as the trainee officer that had been continuously harassed, the Army chose to set me up for termination while at the same time finding my harasser a new job without any repercussions for him," Starkey said in the statement.

Starkey's lawyers said Lord went to work in a police position for the Department of Defense after the Army was presented with evidence from Starkey's case.

Lord could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman said the Army regrets what happened.

"The Army and the Starkey family have agreed on a settlement so that all parties can move beyond this breach of Army Core Values," Scott Malcolm said via email in response to reporter questions.

Lord could not be reached for comment.

Starkey received hundreds of text messages from Lord at all hours, according to the lawsuit.

"I have never seen a stronger case of sexual harassment and wrongful termination," her attorney Mark Epstein said in a statement. "The text messages were highly sexual and incredibly offensive, not to mention plentiful."

Lord's wife also worked as a lieutenant at the installation, where she was Starkey's direct supervisor before she was terminated, Epstein said.

The Army knew Lord had a history of sexual harassment, according to Epstein.

"Where the military chain of command is everything, the Army had further handcuffed Ms. Starkey by allowing a known sexual harasser to supervise a female trainee officer and placed the harasser's wife in the position of being the person that would need to be told of the improper conduct," said Wendy Musell, another attorney representing Starkey.

Starkey said she will never be able to work in law enforcement again because of the case.

"I only hope that my coming forward helps other women and the culture at the Army of silence and retaliation will change," Starkey said.

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