TAMPA - A federal complaint against the company Four Amigos Travel, Inc. of Largo described a hostile work environment where women were groped, insulted, and threatened, and those who complained were either chided or dismissed.
A jury this week agreed with the allegations, awarding seven women and one man $20.2 million in damages. The officers of the travel company didn't attend the trial in their defense.
"it made me physically ill. And I felt ashamed that I was there," said Patty Matacchiero, 66, who ultimately felt compelled to take legal action after eight months at the company.
"One of the managers actually carried around a picture of his manhood on his cellphone, and he would stick it in one of the employee's faces," Matacchiero said.
At one point, Matacchiero fought back, calling her boss a "dog."
"And he sexually assaulted, violently, the back of my chair telling me 'I'm going to show you what a dog is.' And he physically almost knocked me off my chair," she said.
Matacchiero said during the years after filing the lawsuit, she suffered health problems and eventually lost her beachfront home to foreclosure.
"It was horrible. I mean, I cried every night, you know? I could still cry over what happened to me and all those young women who worked there," Matacchiero said.
Matacchiero's attorney, Patrice Pucci, said it's unfortunate there are still workplace environments that are this hostile to women.
"Sexual harassment against women is really an issue of power," Pucci said. "It's an issue of men in the workplace trying to exert their power over these women."
Four Amigos and Top Dog, a newer name of the company, has since been dissolved. Pucci said she is trying to track down the owners' new company, so she can collect the damages awarded by the jury.
Seven women were awarded judgements in the case, along with a one man, who claimed retaliation after being fired for intervening in the abuse.