Illinois Jury Returns $95 Million Verdict for Workers’ Rights Violations

A jury in a Southern Illinois federal district court entered a $95 million jury verdict in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against a retail store and one of its managers by a female employee. Ashley Alford v. Aaron’s Rents, Inc., Richard Moore, et al., 08 cv 00683, included widespread claims of sexual harassment by the store manager and allegations of inaction on behalf of the company itself.

Twenty year-old Ashley Alford worked at Aaron’s, Inc., a nationwide chain that offers rent-to-own appliances and furniture. Alford’s lawsuit claimed that in November 2005 her store manager began calling her degrading pet names, accompanied by inappropriate touching, groping, and pinching. In addition, the store manager, Richard Moore, began giving her gifts, which were accompanied by him stating that he expected some form of sexual acts in return.

After six months of this behavior, Ashley took action by calling the company’s sexual harassment hotline. However, while this did result in the regional supervisor coming to her local store, he failed to take any action against the supervisor. And even worse, the regional supervisor discussed Ashley’s sexual harassment allegations in front of the very supervisor she had filed a complaint against.

Not surprising, the sexual harassment did not stop after the regional supervisor’s visit, but in fact got worse. In October 2006, Moore forced Ashley to the ground, lifting her clothes to expose her while he masturbated over her body. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch website, Moore is facing criminal charges as a result of the October 2006 incident.

Ashley filed the sexual harassment lawsuit against both Moore and Aaron’s, Inc. The lawsuit sought damages for the sexual harassment, Aaron’s negligent supervision, and the emotional distress Ashley endured. Following the filing of Ashley’s lawsuit, Aaron’s, Inc. released a statement confirming that Moore no longer was employed by their company and stated that the company did not condone any of his actions.

However, Ashley’s case demonstrated that while Aaron’s might not have condoned Moore’s actions that it did little to prevent or stop the abuse from occurring. The Illinois jury found the retailer liable for sexual harassment, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Likewise, the jury held Moore liable for assault and battery against this employee.

The Illinois jurors awarded $95 million in damages to Ashley. The jury verdict included $80 million against Aaron’s for punitive damages, $13.5 million against Aaron’s for compensatory damages, and an additional $1.5 million in compensatory damages against Moore. Aaron’s, Inc. has indicated that it would appeal the Illinois jury’s verdict, but has not yet identified on what grounds.

Kreisman Law Offices has been practicing Illinois personal injury lawsuits for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Maywood, Buffalo Grove, Prospect Heights, Summit, Chicago’s Lawndale, and Bridgeview.

David A. Lieb. “Illinois jury awards $95M for sexual harassment.” The Chicago Tribune. June 9, 2011.

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