The 8 Largest Sexual Harassment Verdicts In History
ERIN FUCHS, SEP. 3, 2012, 7:49 AM
News emerged last week of the horrifying conditions that employees of New York state lawmaker Vito Lopez allegedly had to work under, not long after a shocking suit was filed against the Department of Homeland Security.
During sexual harassment suits, unsavory allegations come to light, and in many cases companies will quickly settle to avoid bad publicity.
But in some instances, these cases do go to trial and even reach a verdict. While appeals courts ultimately slashed some of the awards, in all of these cases juries initially sent a message to corporate defendants by handing down multi-million dollar verdicts—in some cases to lone plaintiffs.
A legal secretary won a multi-million dollar suit against a powerful law firm.
A People magazine story on Rena Weeks.
Jury award: $7.1 million
The allegations: In September 1994, a San Francisco jury awarded former Baker & McKenzie legal secretary Rena Weeks $7.1 million in punitive damages, which a judge reduced to $3.5 million, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
She accused her boss, trademark attorney Martin Greenstein, of lunging at her chest, pouring M&Ms down her breast pocket, and grabbing at her hips. The trial gripped the Bay Area at the time, and many legal watchers considered the verdict a landmark victory.
A former UBS sales assistant said a supervisor made relentless sexual advances.
Jury award: $10.6 million
The allegations: Carla C. Ingraham, who was 51 in 2011, claimed her supervisor made repeated comments about her breast size, talked about how big his penis was, and asked her about sexual fantasies, Bloomberg reported.
UBS fired her when she complained about the supervisor, she claimed. UBS says it prohibits retaliation against employees who complain of harassment, Bloomberg reported.
A former team executive for the New York Knicks says she was fired a month after complaining a famed coach harassed her.
Jury award: $11.6 million
The allegations: Anucha Browne Sanders claimed famed Knicks coach Isiah Thomas harassed her over a period of two years, and that she was fired a month after she formally complained about it, the New York Times reported.
The first female millwright at a Chrysler plant claimed she endured cruel jokes and sexually explicit cartoons.
Jury award: $21 million
The allegations: Linda Gilbert, the first woman millwright at Chrysler's Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, claimed co-workers harassed her with sexually explicit photos and cruel names, the AP reported.
Her award was believed to be one of the largest handed to an individual sexual harassment plaintiff. However, the Michigan Supreme Court threw it out in 2004 after finding it was "clearly the product of passion and prejudice."
Six women won a $30 million jury verdict from a grocery chain after they claimed they were abused and fondled.
Michal Czerwonka/Getty News
Jury award: $30 million
The allegations: Six female workers claimed a store manager at a Ralph's grocery store in Escondido, Calif. terrorized them for an entire year, fondling them and throwing objects at them including a 12-pack of soda and a phone, ABC News reported.
In 2006, a state appeals court reduced the award after finding it "constitutionally excessive," North County Times reported at the time.
An employee of an Aaron's rent-to-own won a huge award after claiming a general manager masturbated on her.
Ashley Alford won $95 million in a harassment case
Jury award: $95 million, which was reduced to $40 million because of a cap on federal damages.
The allegations: Ashley Alford, who worked for an Aaron's near St. Louis, claimed the store's general manager assaulted her after sexually harassing her for a year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
In the fall of 2006, he allegedly snuck up behind her while she was sitting in a stock room and hit her in the head with his penis, the Post-Dispatch reported.
A physician's assistant won perhaps the biggest-ever sexual harassment verdict for a single plaintiff.
Jury award: $168 million
The allegations: Physician's assistant Ani Chopourian claimed doctors at Mercy General Hospital constantly asked her for sex, ABC News reports. One allegedly even stuck her with a needle and called her a "stupid chick."
She looked at her supervisor and said, "Do something," when she got harassed, ABC News reported. But her supervisor would just laugh, she said.
Pharmaceutical giant Novartis was ordered to pay $250 million over claims of rampant discrimination against female sales staff.
Jury award: $250 million
The allegations: While this was technically a discrimination case and not a harassment case, a number of employees of Novartis Pharmaceuticals also claimed they were harassed or demeaned.
One female sales person claimed she was yelled at for leaving a long meeting to go to the bathroom, while a top-performing sales person who was a new mom was told not to apply for management jobs, the Wall Street Journal reported.