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      Verdict in Big M sexual harassment case


      A jury has reached a verdict in the sexual harassment lawsuit against Paul's Big M Market in Oswego, its former manager, and its owner.

      CNY Central reporter Jim Kenyon reports that the jury of six women and two men said that the store did not adequately respond to accusations that former store manager Allen Manwaring was harassing employees.

      The jury decided that $1.25 million in punitive damages would be awarded to ten women. The case of an 11th woman was dropped because she did not testify. $11,080 in compensatory damages was also awarded as a result of the verdict.

      Defendants say they are shocked by the verdict, and claim the judgment will not stand after an appeal.

      Stay with CNY Central for more on this story as it develops.

      January 19 update:

      The jury in a highly charged sexual harassment lawsuit listened to lengthy closing arguments Wednesday morning in federal court in Syracuse before it began deliberations in the afternoon

      The six women and two men on the jury must decide whether Paul TMs Big M Market in Oswego, its former manager Allen Manwaring, and owner Karen Connors were involved in extensive sexual harassment of 11 female employees over nearly a decade.

      The civil lawsuit is being brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of the former employees. In his closing arguments, EEOC attorney Mark Penzel related the testimony of 13 women who accused Manwaring of fondling them and making lewd sexual comments on numerous occasions.

      The EEOC is also accusing Connors of not doing anything when the employees complained, and in some cased retaliating against them. During the two-week trial, Manwaring admitted to telling sexual jokes to adult employees, but says the allegations of sexual harassment are either false, fabrications, or misunderstandings.

      In 2007, Manwaring pleaded guilty to second degree harassment, a violation. He was fired last year for allegedly making a lewd comment to an employee.

      If the jury decides Paul TMs Big M, Manwaring and Connors are guilty, they must also decide how much money the plaintiffs could receive in compensatory and punitive damages.

      In his closing arguments, defense attorney David Antonucci pointed out that more than 300 women worked at Paul's Big M while Manwaring was manager, but only 11 are bringing suit. Antonucci said the "claimants are either angry or have a monetary stake in this."

      Closing arguments and jury deliberations were delayed by one day when Federal Judge Norman Mordue could not preside over the start of deliberations Tuesday because he was reportedly delayed by a canceled flight.