The Most Famous Sexual Harassment Cases in the US
In 2021, there were over 10,000 charges of sex-based harassment in the US.
That year, the world experienced what’s now known as the Weinstein effect. In 2017, a wave of men and women in Hollywood and other industries spoke out against the sexual harassment they’d faced in decades previous. They pointed the finger at powerful leaders and the fallout reached as far as India, Israel, and Peru.
The success of the #metoo movement caused a number of new sexual harassment cases. But the ability of people to speak out against sexual harassment has a lot to do with the sexual harassment cases that came before them.
There are a number of famous sexual harassment cases in US history. Keep reading to find out what some of the biggest, and most shocking, of these cases are.
In 2012, Ani Chopourian sued Catholic Healthcare West. Chopourian was a former physician at Mercy General Hospital.
She alleged that in the course of her career in healthcare she reported sexual harassment multiple times. Catholic Healthcare West did nothing following her reports.
Among her allegations, Chopourian said that a colleague greeted her every morning by telling her he was “horny”. He also repeatedly slapped her buttocks.
In her suit, Chopourian initially won over $160 million. This was the largest amount ever awarded to a victim of workplace sexual harassment. However, Chopourian was later denied that amount.
The attorneys involved in the case submitted arguments against the amount awarded. This led the judge to decrease the figure to just over $82 million. And before she could receive that, the attorneys involved in the case reached an undisclosed settlement.
Ashley Alford sued her former employer, Aaron’s Rents, in 2011. Aaron’s Rent was a lease-to-own retail chain. They sold home furnishings in Illinois.
In this case, Alford alleged that she was both sexually harassed and assaulted by her former manager. For some time, Richard Moore committed sexual harassment without penalty. When Alford reported that her boss attacked her and masturbated in front of her unsolicited, they finally did something.
Her allegations led to an award of $95 million. This award exceeded the cap on federal damages and, as such, they reduced it to $41.3 million.
When Aaron’s Rents chose to move to reconsider the verdict or order a new trial, they reached a settlement. Alford received somewhere in the vicinity of $6 million in her sexual harassment case.
Anucha Browne Sanders
This high-profile case involved a former New York Knicks executive suing Madison Square Gardens et al. In 2007, Brown-Sanders won $11.6 million in punitive damages for sexual harassment.
The Court learned that Brown-Sanders was fired from her position because she’d made complaints of harassment. After filing reports against the New York Knicks’ president and head coach, Isiah Thomas, Sanders’ lost her position. Besides soliciting sex from her, she also reported that he’d called her a “bitch” and a “ho”.
Like so many of the sexual harassment cases on this list, Brown-Sanders didn’t receive the initial amount awarded. Instead, US attorneys decided to settle on $11.5 million in exchange for the defense not pursuing an appeal.
How could anybody forget the sexual harassment case that caused Dick Cheney to blame a woman for his firing the Secretary of the Navy? Of course, Rear Admiral Jack Snyder was actually fired because of gross neglect of proper conduct as well as sexual harassment.
In her case, Puopolo sued the US Navy. She claimed that at the 1991 Las Vegas Tailhook convention, she suffered harassment at the hands of over 200 aviators.
In a ritual known as “the Gauntlet”, Puopolo walked down a hallway full of intoxicated men. As she walked through the hall, the men groped, pinched, and passed her from one man to the other. At the end of this torturous event, she was thrown to the ground.
Puopolo told her boss about the mistreatment. Although he initially told her that’s what she should expect for going down the hallway of drunk navy men, he did promise he would do something. But until she took her case public, nobody received punishment for what happened to her.
When Lois Jenson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former employer, she did so on behalf of herself and a number of women who previously worked at Eveleth Taconite Co. This case marked the first Class Action sexual harassment case in the US.
Before hiring Jenson, the company was dominated by males. These men believed that a woman’s place was in the home. Any woman working at Eveleth were stealing a man’s job.
The women hired at this company battled years of sexual harassment from the men who held these beliefs. These women claimed they suffered humiliating indignities. A supervisor even stalked Jenson.
By 1984, the harassment has become too much and Jenson, along with some of her female colleagues, filed a lawsuit. Although it took many years for a lawyer to pick up the case, the women eventually reached a settlement of $3.5 million.
Charlie Rose was a powerful man in the news cycle. He hosted his own interview program that aired on both PBS and Bloomberg. He co-hosted “CBS This Morning” and was also a major contributor to “60 Minutes”.
When 8 women came forward to accuse Rose of sexual harassment, that career came to an abrupt end. These women, aged 21-37 at the time of their harassment, stated that Rose made unsolicited sexual advances toward them in the 1990’s and 2000’s. The allegations ranged from lewd phone calls to groping.
CBS fired Rose the day after the allegations became public. PBS and Bloomberg also suspended the “Charlie Rose” show. After losing his job, Rose also faced lawsuits from 3 of these women.
In 1991, Anita Hill led the charge in the Clarence Thomas Hearings that put sexual harassment in the workplace on the public radar. A reputable law professor, Hill testified against a soon-to-be-named Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.
This trial was one of the first that called out the misconduct of powerful men in the workplace. It gave other victims of sexual harassment cases the courage to talk about the workplace harassment they had suffered.
Six-year-old versus Brockton, Massachusetts School District
Although not a typical sexual harassment case, this case did create a dialogue around what’s considered sexual harassment. It also made people ask at what age a person can be accused of sexual harassment.
In this case, a 6-year-old boy placed 2 of his fingers inside a classmates clothing and touched the girl’s skin. The principal placed the boy on suspension for violation of the school sexual harassment policy. He also noticed police, social services, and the district attorney.
Neither the parents or government organizations placed charges on the boy. But in 2007, his family sued the city for what the boy suffered as a result of this national attention. The result was an apology from the mayor and a six-figure settlement for the family.
David Letterman was one of the Hollywood celebrities that faced sexual misconduct accusations following the Weinstein case. Letterman stood accused of having affairs with previous employees. Although it’s unclear if these accusations led to lawsuits, the Letterman case raised some important questions.
This is because, at the same time that Letterman faced these allegations, it was revealed that he’d been blackmailed over his sexual misconduct. Former CBS producer Joe Halderman had extorted Letterman for $2 million by claiming he had proof of his affairs.
While it seems, Letterman got away with a simple on-air acknowledgment of, and apology for, his sexual relationships, Halderman was convicted of attempted extortion in 2010.
Halderman received 6 months in jail, 5 years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service. Letterman, on the other hand, is still making money for his on-screen performances.
The Bill O’Reilly case infuriated millions of Americans who followed it. A Fox News anchor who had been in the industry for 43 years, O’Reilley reached a $32 million settlement in his sexual harassment lawsuit.
O’Reilley never admitted to any sexual harassment or misconduct. Perhaps that and the fact that he reached a settlement is what led Fox to renew his contract following his lawsuit. The contract was a whopping $25 million per year.
Although 21st Century Fox stated that they regarded this issue as a personal one in which they weren’t involved, they eventually let O’Reilly go after his talent agency dropped him as well.
The Positive Impact of Sexual Harassment Cases
The extent of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein surely places him among one of the worst people the world has ever seen.
However, the Weinstein case and those that came before it has started a public conversation that benefits everybody. As more people come out against even more powerful figures, victims gain confidence that people will listen to their stories and offer the necessary help in filing sexual harassment cases.
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