‘Justice Is Served’: Jury Returns More than $1M Sexual Harassment Verdict Against Alabama State University

Scott Johnson, Montgomery Adviser, February 18, 2012

A federal jury returned a verdict totaling more than $1 million Friday evening against Alabama State University.

The jury found that the school had allowed an administrator to create a hostile work environment by racially and sexually harassing three female employees and that the women were retaliated against after they filed complaints.

“Justice is served,” said Cynthia Williams as she walked out of the courthouse about 6 p.m. Friday, alongside the two other plaintiffs, Jacqueline Weatherly and Lydia Burkhalter, who echoed the sentiment.

The jury of four men and four women returned a verdict that includes compensation for emotional pain and mental anguish; back pay for Williams and Burkhalter, who were fired; and lost leave time for Weatherly.


The jury found that Lavonette Bartley, an ASU employee for about 27 years, created a racially hostile environment for all three women. She was accused of regularly using the N-word, calling one of the plaintiffs a “white bitch” and a number of other specific allegations. The jury also ruled in favor of Burkhalter’s claim of sexual harassment.

The plaintiffs, and Bartley, are black women with the exception of Burkhalter, who is described in court documents as biracial.


Bartley is the associate executive director in the office of Executive ASU Vice President and Chief Operating Officer John Knight. She works in Knight’s office in Suite 119 of Council Hall on the ASU campus, where all three plaintiffs also have worked.

The lawsuit also accused Knight of making romantic advances toward Burkhalter, although the verdict itself did not make it clear whether the jury’s decision on sexual harassment included one or the other of those claims or both.


The trial lasted eight days and included testimony from some well-known elected officials, including Knight, a longtime state legislator.


Knight’s testimony included denials of claims against him and that he had never heard Bartley use the N-word or other derogatory terms while on the ASU campus.

The jury of four men and four women awarded Weatherly $350,000; Burkhalter $230,000; and Williams $213,500 for emotional pain and mental anguish.

Jurors also awarded Williams $141,573.76 and Burkhalter $94,592.51 in back pay and Weatherly $9,453.06 in lost leave time.


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  • Oil Can Harry

    Since it’s a state university that means the taxpayers will be on the hook for the settlement caused by this woman’s ghetto behavior.

  • Anan7

    I’ll bet this Mr. Knight thought he was impervious to the law  because 1) He’s an “elected representative”, 99% of whom are the lowest form of scum on the face of the Earth, and 2) if you complain about him, you’re racist. That is somehow worse than what he was doing in the first place.

    Oh I’m sorry, maybe this was a “cultural misunderstanding” and its “racist” to apply White standards to non-Whites.  Maybe that is the real problem.

  • I know it sounds crazy ( she’s black, so it’s a legitimate question) to even ask, but is  Bartley still employeed at ASU ? If so, the citizens of ASU should demand this thug be terminated immediately, as her uncivilized behavior is costing the citizens of Alabama dearly.

  • R P

    Just another shakedown in the game called Da’Ghetto Lottery.

  • White students will have to pay for the fine.  How does that help anyone except the lawyers and black student.

  • ageofknowledge

    What’s really weird is that some of these suits are occurring with only women involved. A woman administrator accused of this by other women. 

    It reveals that filing suit over this sort of thing is an easy payday. What easier way to make a cool quarter or half million dollars in the U.S. than this type of lawsuit.

    It also highlights how many men were kicked out of the American workforce as the elitists broke U.S. trade to abandon the country’s manufacturing, etc…

  • JD

    My boy used to stay in the dorms he called them the PJ’s since you could literally see the other project houses from them. The whole place should be mowed down with half the blacks with it.