El Paso jurors award $750,000 in county retaliation suit

EL PASO, Texas - An El Paso jury on Friday sided with a former county employee on a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit and awarded her $750,000.
This was the second trial for Monica Miranda who sued the county in May of 2011. The first trial was held in December 2015 and ended in a hung jury.
This time, jurors agreed with Miranda.
"This is a victory for all county employees," her attorney, Daniela Labinoti, told ABC-7.
Miranda was an operations manager at the Enforcement Division of the Tax Assessor-Collector's office back in the summer of 2010. She alleged her supervisor, then-Chief Investigator Raul Ruiz sexually harassed her and when she reached out to file a grievance, she was punished.
Miranda told ABC-7 that, although it was a 7-year process, it all still feels fresh to her. "It was a very hard journey," she said.
"My client lost her job. This is her life, her dream, her career to serve," said Labinoti. "She was devastated."
Back in 2010, Enforcement Director David Marquez fell ill, Labinoti said, so Tax Assessor-Collector Victor Flores announced during a staff meeting that Ruiz would step in to do the job on an interim basis.
"The claim was that she stood up to the elected official, Victor Flores, and told him 'You can't promote a sexual harasser.' His answer was 'No, you're wrong and I run the show'," Labinoti said.
Labinoti said Miranda sent an email sharing her intention to file a grievance against Flores on a Friday afternoon, the last thing she did before leaving the office. Monday morning, Labinoti said, Miranda was terminated.
Four months later, so was Ruiz. Labinoti said the county admitted during the trial that Ruiz had committed sexual harassment.
"I think it was a black-and-white case of retaliation. She asked to file a grievance against Victor Flores for promoting a sexual discriminator and was fired."
Flores, who resigned in February 2015 from his Tax Assessor-Collector position citing health reasons, testified during the trial. So did former chief deputy Norma Favela, now the district clerk, and Elsie West who is the current deputy Human Resources Officer, according to the county's website.
"We want this to be a message for all employees, and for things to get better (in the county)," said Labinoti.
Attorney Brett Duke also assisted with the case. In a Facebook post Duke said, "No employer, including government, may violate an employee's rights." 
"I do feel that justice was served. I had a very fair judge and I'm glad the jury was able to see the truth," said Miranda.

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