A Kitsap County jury has awarded two young women $565,000 for sexual harassment they suffered at the hands their former manager at the now defunct Bremerton Lanes and Casino who is serving a 14-year prison sentence on unrelated charges of voyeurism, child molestation and possession of thousands of images of child pornography.
Roy Pierce created a hostile work environment rife with sexual innuendo and unwanted advances, and threatened to fire the security guards if they didn’t give him nude photos of themselves, with one of the women posing for photos Pierce took in his office, said attorney Henry Jones, of the firm Friedman Rubin.
Defense attorney Ward Olsen, who represented the parent companies of Bremerton Lanes and Casino — Star Westsound LLC and Evans Bremerton LLC — did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment on Thursday.
Both companies, along with owner Fred Evans, were named as defendants in the lawsuit that held them liable for the “quid pro quo” sexual harassment by Pierce, a supervisor and security and bar manager for the business. It is unclear whether Evans plans to appeal.
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In a response to the plaintiffs’ complaint, Olsen wrote that the women “assumed the risk of injury arising from their own actions” and by providing Pierce with nude photos “failed to mitigate their damages.”
Pierce, now 50, was brought to Kitsap County Superior Court from Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, Franklin County, to testify — and claimed on the stand “that it was consensual,” Jones said, adding there is evidence Pierce coerced other female security guards into giving him nude photos.
Bremerton Lanes and Casino closed in 2010.
The Seattle Times is not naming the women because they are considered victims of unlawful sexual conduct.
Now 26 and 24, the women worked at the Bremerton business at different times between 2007 and 2010 and did not know each other until a female manager and a male security guard began gathering statements from employees about Pierce’s conduct in March 2010, Jones said.
The male security guard introduced the women to Jones’ co-counsel, Terry Venneberg, a Gig Harbor attorney. By then, both women no longer worked at Bremerton Lanes and Casino.
Pierce hired the women when they were 20 years old to work as day shift security guards, Jones said.
The women, who made $9 an hour, felt they had no choice but to comply with Pierce’s demands, given that neither has a college degree and jobs in Bremerton were scarce, Jones said.
Pierce, who was arrested and charged in May 2010, pleaded guilty to first-degree child molestation, two counts of voyeurism and possession of child pornography in March 2011, court records show. At the time, the Kitsap Sun reported that Pierce had tens of thousands of sexually explicit images and videos of children, including a number he took as early as 1999.
Pierce hid cameras throughout his house and filmed at least a dozen women as they disrobed; he was also believed to have taken nude photos of women at Bremerton Lanes and Casino, The Sun reported.
The now 26-year-old woman, who was a friend of Pierce’s daughter, looked up to Pierce as a father figure, Jones said. She was pressured throughout her employment to continue providing Pierce with nude photos, which he showed to other employees, he said. The jury, which handed down its verdict on Wednesday, awarded her $265,000 in damages, according to Jones.
The now 24-year-old, who Pierce photographed nude in his office, was awarded $300,000, Jones said.
Both women were humiliated by Pierce, suffered a loss of dignity and had their trust betrayed, he said.
“No one knew simultaneously the extent that this was going on,” said Jones of Pierce’s conduct.
As for his clients, “it was more a matter of having a jury say what happened was not OK. For them, it’s more about getting the word out so it doesn’t happen” to other young women, he said.
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org