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7th Circuit affirms crime-lab ruling

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a District Court's decision of summary judgment in favor of Indianapolis and Marion County in an appeal filed by a former employee of the county's Forensic Services Agency, or Crime Lab.

In Kelly S. Coolidge v. Consolidated City of Indianapolis and Marion County, 06-3587, Coolidge appealed the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, ruling, saying pornography she found created a hostile work environment and that she was fired from her job in retaliation for her previous lawsuit against her Crime Lab supervisor, David Willoughby, for sexual harassment.

Coolidge sued Indianapolis and Marion County, claming that Willoughby continued to sexually harass her after his retirement by leaving behind pornographic tapes where she would find them. She found two pornographic videos in the Crime Lab's videotape cabinet that were unlabeled, so she watched them to determine what was on the tape. She found they contained pornography, took the tapes to her attorney to copy for evidence, and several weeks later, notified her supervisor of the incident. Willoughby denied any knowledge of the tapes.

The 7th Circuit ruled Coolidge's finding of the tapes does not create a hostile work environment because her discovery and viewing of the tapes was brief and not particularly severe. There was no evidence to show the tapes were Willoughby's and that he left them behind to harass Coolidge.

Coolidge argued in her appeal that she was passed over for Willoughby's position and that it was given to a lesser-qualified candidate who did not have the education needed for the job. The successful job candidate was, in fact, more qualified in education and experience than Coolidge, and there is no proof to show she was passed over because of her previous lawsuit.

Finally, Coolidge contended she was reprimanded and subsequently fired in retaliation for her lawsuit. Her two reprimands and a third incident were cited as the basis for her firing. The reprimands included taking Crime Lab evidence from the premises to copy and for failing to take a blood sample from a rape kit exam.

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