Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) February 11, 2014 — The sexual harassment documented in a case that began in 2008 has resulted in one of the largest verdicts in the U.S. for a single plaintiff.
“This story has many twists and turns, but the most dramatic one is what turned this case into a sexual harassment lawsuit,” explains Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace.
In 2005, Aaron’s Inc. hired Ashley Alford to work in its rent-to-own company store in Illinois. The plaintiff described herself as pleased to be hired; the store was located close to her home, and she particularly enjoyed working as a customer service representative. When she was first hired, she could see herself advancing within the company.
Within the first year of her employment at Aaron’s, she began experiencing sexual harassment from supervisor Richard Moore, the store’s general manager. He began by nicknaming her, pinching her, making inappropriate and lewd propositions remarks in the workplace and giving her clothing and chocolates. Soon, Moore began to grope Ashford at work. One day, in the fall of 2006, the plaintiff was sitting on the floor of the stockroom when the manager walked up behind her and hit her on the head with his penis.
Then, in October of 2006, Moore threw the plaintiff onto a sofa, lifted her blouse and masturbated on her chest while holding her down. He was arrested and did not return to work.
Alford continued her work at Aaron’s for a further six months. In 2008, she chose to pursue a lawsuit against the company for its role in the incidents. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed the suit, and the plaintiff joined to sue Moore and his immediate supervisor. In 2009, the rent-to-own company entered a consent decree to ban discrimination against workers, retaliation for reporting any such incidents and toleration of sexual harassment. Aaron’s also agreed to hold training sessions for area managers. the final verdict was reached in 2011.
According to evidence presented at trial, the plaintiff called the company harassment hotline before the worst assaults, but no one returned her call. She did speak with the general manager’s supervisor, who discussed her complaints in front of Moore, warning him to be “careful” because she had laid a complaint. Further, the plaintiff alleged she was denied a promotion after filing the complaint.
Defense attorneys suggested Alford had called the harassment hotline but ended the call after only offering her name and saying she needed help. They further claimed that Aaron’s had no record of any complaint to a supervisor about any of the other incidents. They stated that she had not been qualified for promotion.
The jury sided with the plaintiff, finding Aaron’s liable for intentional infliction of emotion distress, for negligent supervision of the general manager and for sexual harassment. They found that the general manager had assaulted the plaintiff, but the company was still liable for retaliation. The jury awarded $80 million in punitive damages and $15 million in compensatory damages. The $95 million award was later reduced to $41.6 million per the cap on damages in federal sexual harassment lawsuits.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal, but it continues with disturbing regularity. “If you are facing a similar situation, contact an experienced Chicago employment attorney and find out what your rights are. Sexual harassment is illegal — period. Those perpetrating it need to be held accountable,” Coffey stated.
Learn more at http://www.employmentlawcounsel.com/
THE COFFEY LAW OFFICE, P.C.
351 W. Hubbard Street, Suite 602
Chicago, IL 60654
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