Employee Wins $95 Million in Graphic Sexual Harassment Suit

Sexual Harassment A jury recently awarded a young woman from the St. Louis area $95 million in sexual harassment compensation, after she testified that her boss not only approached her from behind and hit her over the head with his genitals, but that he also threw her to the ground, held her down, lifted up her shirt and performed a sexual act on himself.

This allegedly happened at a branch of Aaron's Inc., a chain of more than 1,800 rental stores across the country. That judgment is almost equal to the $118 million profit that the company reported last year. The $15 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages may well be a record. But a limit on damages in federal sexual harassment cases will likely reduce that total to about $41.6 million, according to stltoday.com.

Ashley Alford of Fairview Heights, testified that she had been undergoing sexual harassment for some time. Her supervisor, general manager Richard Moore, who is no longer employed by Aaron's, made "sexual jokes and lewd propositions," pinched her, groped her and gave her gifts such as clothing and chocolates. He was arrested after the incident that involved the alleged sexual assault and battery, and is awaiting trial.

Alford claims that she called a company hotline complaining of harassment, but got no response. Her suit also says that she was denied promotion because of her complaint. Company lawyers said that Alford's call to the hotline was vague, that she didn't complain about harassment directly to any of her supervisors, and that she was not qualified for a promotion.

In a prepared statement, Chad Strickland, Aaron's vice president of associate resources, said "Aaron's is extremely disappointed with the jury's verdict and believes that the award does not accurately reflect the evidence that was presented in this case."

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