Former Shaw Coastal employee settles sexual harassment lawsuit

A former employee of Shaw Coastal Inc. has reached an out-of-court settlement of his five-year-old sexual harassment suit against the firm, a part of The Shaw Group in Baton Rouge.

John Cherry, the former employee, twice was awarded judgments of $500,000 during the long dispute, but a second trial was pending before the settlement was reached.

No details of that settlement are in the court record, however.

Jill L. Craft, attorney for Cherry, was reached Thursday in Florida, where she was vacationing with her family.

“I have no comment,” Craft said in reference to the agreed dismissal of the lawsuit that was signed late Wednesday by U.S. District Judge James J. Brady.

The Shaw Group was acquired last year by Chicago Bridge & Iron Co.

Telephone and email requests for comment were not returned Thursday by Gentry Brann, CB&I’s vice president for global communications and marketing.

Calls and emails to two attorneys for Shaw Coastal also were not returned.

There also was no response to a call and email seeking comment from the attorney for Michael Reasoner, a former Shaw Coastal supervisor whom Cherry accused of harassing him.

Both Cherry and Reasoner maintained throughout the case that they are heterosexual.

Reasoner denied during the litigation that he harassed Cherry, and officials of Shaw Coastal denied they ignored Cherry’s complaints about Reasoner.

Cherry won a $500,000 judgment against Shaw Coastal and $10,000 judgment against Reasoner at a jury trial in July 2010.

The next month, however, Brady erased the $500,000 judgment against Shaw Coastal and reduced the $10,000 judgment against Reasoner to $1,800. The judge said there was no evidence that Reasoner propositioned Cherry for sex, and the judgment against Reasoner was never certified as final.

In March 2012, however, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Brady’s decision and concluded there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict against Shaw Coastal. At the 5th Circuit’s direction, Brady reinstated the $500,000 judgment against Shaw Coastal.

In October, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Shaw Coastal’s appeal of the 5th Circuit’s ruling.

In November, Brady reduced the judgment against Shaw Coastal to $50,000. When Cherry refused to accept the reduced award, the judge said he would order a new trial in the case.

Wednesday’s court-approved settlement avoided that new trial. Notice of the settlement was signed by attorneys for Shaw Coastal, Reasoner and Cherry.