Lee Berger, the plaintiff, filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. district court against the college and former supervisors on Friday, November 2. The school is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with Dr. Mario Merida, Associate Dean of Allied Health Sciences at Stevens-Henager’s Ogden campus. Merida was Berger's direct supervisor at the time of the alleged harassment. Vicke Dewsnup, President of the Ogden Campus is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Berger says Merida forced his way into her hotel room and then attacked her during a work conference trip to Las Vegas in December, 2010. Court documents state "Merida climbed on top of Plaintiff, and touched her inappropriately beneath her clothing. Merida touched Plaitniff's stomach, face, and legs, while kissing her. During this time, Plaintiff repeatedly told Merida "no," and reminded him of his marriage. Merida ignored her pleas and continued with his inappropriate actions."
Berger who has sinced moved to North Carolina since the alleged incident says she had known and worked for Merida for 12 years. During an interview with ABC 4 News, Berger choked up while relaying details of the alleged incidident. "He was on me. He was on me on top of the bed," said Berger.
Berger reported the alleged abuse to Stevens-Henager College in March, 2011. The plaintiff says she was stunned by the response from their HR department, adding that they did nothing to address her claim. "(The head of HR) opened up the meeting by saying 'I think it's time we put this to bed now,' and that mortified me," said Berger.
In the months following her claim to HR, Berger says she was demoted, harassed, and even discriminated against at work. She felt she was left with no choice, but to resign a few months later in July, 2011.
"You don't punish the victim in this kind of offense. You take appropriate action against the wrongdoer, and not the victim. They harassed the victim, Lee Berger, to the point she had to leave her job and that's outrageous," said Berger's attorney Robert Sykes.
Berger is seeking at least $500,000 in damages for pain and suffering.
According to Sykes, the case will eventually go before a jury.
Attorneys for the defendants could not be reached.