Woman Wins "Extreme" Harassment Suit

March 25, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal judge awarded $75,000 to the lone female employee in a metal parts factory who tried twice to commit suicide because of what the court found was "extreme and outrageous" sexual harassment.

After a non-jury trial, Senior US District Judge James McGirr Kelly awarded Priscilla Hare $50,000 in punitive damages, $15,000 in back pay, and more than $10,600 in medical expenses for treatment of depression, according to a report in The Legal Intelligencer.

According to court papers, not only did officials at H&R Industries Inc. ignore Hare’s complaints about being inappropriately groped and touched, Hare was fired at one point after arguing with a male colleague’s wife who had accused Hare of sleeping with her husband.

“Not only did her supervisors acquiesce in the harassment, they were directly responsible for much of the harassment,” Kelly wrote. “Furthermore, not only did H&R allow this atmosphere of ongoing and extreme hostile work environment to continue to exist, it actually encouraged it. For example, instead of remedying the situation, Hare’s supervisor told Hare to ‘give back’.”

Case History

According to court papers, Hare worked for H&R Industries from February 1997 to October 1999.

Kelly found that the company did nothing to enforce its sexual harassment policy and never gave any of its employees or supervisors training.

In fact, the court found that Hare was harassed by both co-workers and by company officials including general manager Mick Jones who called her “gorgeous” and put his arm around her and “squeeze(d) her cheeks.”

Kelly quoted Hare as testifying that another co-worker “grabbed me a lot . … He brushed up against me tons of times. He would try to get me into the tool room and he would shut the light out and he mentioned how he would bend me over the railing up in the foyer and he told me eventually, we’re going to sleep together. … He would just not leave me alone even after I told him to stop.”

Other harassment allegations according to Hare’s testimony included that:

  • a male worker left a note on her desk telling her that she could be sold for several thousand dollars on the Russian market,
  • another male worker tickled her while she was working, she said, causing her to slip once and nearly slice off her finger in a sheet metal molding machine. That same man, she said, would approach her with his hands open to suggest that he was going to grab her breasts, and
  • yet another male colleague, she said, commented that her perfume was arousing him and that he couldn’t get any work done

Hare said other workers began spreading rumors about having sexual affairs and that those rumors prompted the confrontation that eventually got her fired when she argued with a co-worker’s wife in the parking lot.

In the 12 months after the company let her go, Hare testified that she cut her wrists in January 2000 and overdosed on pills later that year. She was admitted to a hospital after the second suicide attempt, according to court records.