Illinois Jury Produces Record Verdict in Sexual Harassment Case

​A federal jury in Illinois has awarded $95 million in damages to a former employee of the furniture rental company Aaron Rents Inc. for failing to properly respond to the employee’s complaints of sexual harassment and assault. Alford v. Aaron Rents Inc. (S.D. Ill. 2011). The jury awarded compensatory damages of $15 million and punitive damages of $80 million to Ashley Alford, who worked at the defendant’s Fairview Heights, Ill. location. The verdict is believed to be the largest single-plaintiff sexual harassment verdict case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Alford worked as a customer service representative at the Fairview Heights store from 2005 to 2006. During that period, a manager made sexually offensive comments toward her. He also subjected her to sexually offensive touching and exposed himself to her.

Alford complained to a company supervisor and called the Aaron Rents hotline to object to the unlawful harassment. In October 2006, the manager sexually assaulted Alford inside the store. Throughout this process, the suit alleges, the company failed to take prompt and effective remedial action.
The company believes the verdict was the result of a jury gone wild and intends to appeal.

The verdict will likely be recalculated to reflect statutory damages caps. The maximum cap for employers with more than 500 employees is $300,000.