Ashley Alford sued Aaron's in a sexual harassment lawsuit. The jury awarded her a verdict against the company to the tune of $95 million.
Aaron's Inc. is a national rent-to-own furniture store. The plaintiff, Ashley Alford, a former employee, claimed that she suffered humiliating and degrading sexual harassment from the store manager at the branch where she worked, reports the New York Daily News.
The harassment began shortly after she began working at an Aaron's branch in St. Louis in 2005, according to the New York Daily News.
Richard Moore, then the store manager of the branch, nicknamed Alford "Trixie." He then groped her breasts and commented about her looks, reports Reuters. The other male employees at the branch also joined in a campaign to harass her.
The harassment culminated in 2006. Alford was in the back stockroom when Moore came up to her, removed his genitals from his pants and then hit her top of the head with his penis, reports Reuters. A month later, he then harassed her by pushing her down onto a sofa, lifting up her shirt and masturbating on top of her.
Alford says that she called the company sexual harassment hotline but that her message was never returned, reports Reuters. She sued Aaron's in 2008.
Why would Aaron's be liable for Moore's actions? Generally, companies can be liable for the sexual harassment conducted by their employees if they have knowledge or should have knowledge that sexual harassment is taking place but they take no steps to prevent or safeguard their employees from the harassment.
Alford said that she called the company's sexual harassment hotline. As a result, the message she left would have informed Aaron's about the sexual harassment going on in the St. Louis branch, and the company should have done something to help rectify the situation - like fire Moore.
For Aaron's, a sexual harassment lawsuit has led to a $95 million verdict - though Alford's former attorney says that due to federal caps on damages, the damages award will likely be reduced to around $40 million, reports the New York Daily News.