NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — Representatives for the U.S. Navy in Rota have appealed a court ruling ordering the local Navy Exchange to pay more than 8,000 euros to a Spanish employee who claims she was harassed for years by her American supervisor.

The decision, handed down by a Spanish labor court Nov. 30 in the nearby city of Jerez de la Frontera, was hailed this week by members of the local Spanish labor union as a landmark ruling for Rota’s Spanish employees.

But lawyers for the Spanish Ministry of Defense, who represent the Navy Exchange in Rota, have not conceded defeat yet, taking the matter to the state attorney’s office to appeal the decision, said base spokeswoman Lt. Allie Freeman.

The case involves a longtime employee of the Navy Exchange who claims she has suffered years of mental anguish and related health problems since the arrival of the American supervisor in 2000.

After approaching a women’s group at Rota’s Spanish Labor Committee early last year with claims she had been unjustly demoted and isolated from co-workers, the woman filed suit against the exchange March 16 seeking 30,000 euros in damages, said Maria del Carmen Dominguez, a member of the women’s group.

Dominguez said the woman had worked at the store for more than 30 years by the time she filed the suit.

The November decision, she said, was the first of its kind in the province of Cadiz, where Rota is located, and will provide an example to Spanish workers reluctant to speak out about harassment that the system can work in their favor, Dominguez said.

“We told the people, ‘do not stop, do not shut up if something like this happens to you,’” she said.

Spanish workers have repeatedly been at odds with American employers over wages and job cuts at Rota in the past several years, with the union staging its most recent demonstrations in November 2004.

The Spanish Ministry of Defense is arguing the case for the Navy Exchange because Rota is a joint Spanish-American base home to approximately 3,000 active-duty U.S. military personnel. It is the Navy Exchange, however, that will have to pay the damages if the decision holds up, Freeman said.

“The Spanish Ministry of Defense is appealing the case on behalf of the Navy Exchange because the SMOD is the official employer,” Freeman said. “The effects of the judgment, however, are the responsibility of the Navy Exchange.”

Rota NEX officials referred questions about the ruling to Freeman, who said “it would be inappropriate” to comment on the details of the case while the appeal is still pending.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now