The Biggest Sexual Harassment Cases and Settlements
Sexual harassment became a household term in 1991 during the confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas. The nation watched live coverage as Anita Hill, Justice Thomas’ former colleague, detailed how he sexually harassed her and other female colleagues. One year later, the number of sexual harassment cases increased by 50 percent.
Today, federal and state laws prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Here we discuss several of the largest sexual harassment cases and settlements.
Lois Jensen and Eveleth Taconite Co.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Lois Jensen worked at the Eveleth Taconite Co. mine in Minnesota. Women were regularly sexually tormented by their male co-workers at the mine. When Jensen complained, the company stood by idly while Jensen suffered retaliation such as having her tires slashed. Jensen sued and the decades-long court battle extended into the 1990s. She eventually settled for $3.5 million and blazed the trail for other women to come forward.
Legal secretary slays a giant
Rena Weeks was a legal secretary at Baker and McKenzie in San Francisco. Weeks accused her boss, trademark attorney Martin Greenstein, of sexual harassment in the early 1990s. She claims that he lunged at her chest, spilled M&Ms down her breast pocket and reached for her hips. Weeks won a $7.1 million jury award that was later reduced to $3.5 million.
$95 million in a 2011 harassment case
Ashley Alford’s experiences at Aaron’s Rent to Own near St. Louis are the epitome of sexual harassment. She claimed the store’s general manager sexually harassed her for a year and assaulted her in a stockroom. The jury awarded Alford $95 million, but a cap on federal damages reduced the award to $40 million.
The largest award for one plaintiff
Ani Chopourian was a physician’s assistant at Mercy General Hospital. She claimed doctors repeatedly requested sex from her on the job. One doctor stuck her with a needle and labeled her a “stupid chick.” A jury awarded Chopourian $168 million in damages.
While sexual harassment is now part of the national conscience, it still exists, and many workplaces are plagued by the inappropriate behavior. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains that sexual harassment consists of physical and verbal conduct of a sexual nature, sexual advances, and demands for sexual favors. If you believe you are the victim of sexual harassment, contact a Los Angeles employment law attorney for a consultation.