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The top sexual harassment cases of all time

HR World compiled a list of the top 20 sexual harassment cases of all time. The list contains “history-making,” “bizarre,” and “borderline unbelievable” sexual harassment cases.

The “history-making” cases include:

Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky: In what might be the most famous presidential scandal in our nation’s history, Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky eventually led to Clinton becoming the second U.S. president to face an impeachment trial.

Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Kimberly Ellerth: Kimberly Ellerth filed a complaint with the EEOC and then a lawsuit against Burlington Industries, claiming that she was subjected to constant sexual harassment by her supervisor, Ted Slowik. Despite the fact that Ellerth never experienced a setback to her job or compensation, the U.S. Supreme Court set a precedent and ruled that an employee can still hold his/her employer liable for a supervisor’s sexual harassment even if the employee does not suffer any financially-tangible, job-related harm from his/her supervisor’s harassment.

Bill Clinton and Paula Jones: As governor of Arkansas, former president Bill Clinton allegedly “propositioned [Paula Jones] and exposed himself to her in a Little Rock hotel room,” as reported by The Washington Post. Clinton never admitted to the sexual harassment charges.

Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas: Clarence Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush despite being accused of sexual harassment by University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill, who had once worked for him at the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. Despite the allegations and investigation, Thomas was narrowly elected to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Hill was criticized for “character assassination.”

Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services: In this groundbreaking case, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling and declared that sexual harassment also “applied to harassment in the workplace between members of the same sex.” According to the complaint, in October 1991, Joseph Oncale was working for Sundowner Offshore Services on a Chevron oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. He was employed on an eight-man crew which included supervisors John Lyons and Danny Pippen. Oncale alleged that he was forcibly subjected to sex related, humiliating actions by Lyons and Pippen in the presence of the rest of the crew. Pippen and Lyons were also accused of sexually assulting Oncale, and Lyons threatened to rape Oncale.

Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co.: Charlize Theron’s starring role in the 2005 movie “North Country” tells the story of Lois Jenson, an employee at the Eveleth Taconite Co. mine in Eveleth, Minnesota during the 1970s and 1980s. At the mine, Jenson and other female employees were regularly harassed by male workers in a sexual, threatening manner. When Jenson first filed a complaint, “her car tires were slashed,” and the company refused to pay for replacements. This case, which was filed in 1988, was the first class-action sexual harassment lawsuit in the United States.  Through various hearings and trials that lasted well into the 1990s, Jenson and the other plaintiffs eventually settled with the Eveleth Taconite Co. for $3.5 million.

According to HR World, the “bizarre” sexual harassment cases included the following:

S.A.C. Capital Advisors LCC: In 2007, a shocking scandal erupted at $14 billion dollar hedge fund company SAC Capital Advisors.  Former employee Andrew Tong filed a lawsuit against his supervisor Ping Jiang, for allegedly forcing Tong to take female hormones and wear female clothing in order “to eliminate the trader’s aggressive male attitude so he could become a more obedient and detail-oriented player” at work. S.A.C. Capital Advisors and Ping Jiang “vehemently deny the charges.”

Koko the Gorilla: Francine “Penny” Patterson, president of The Gorilla Foundation, was accused by two former employees of trying to force the two women to expose their breasts to a gorilla named Koko. Nancy Alperin and Kendra Keller, who sued the Woodside, California-based foundation for more than $1 million, claimed that they were fired for refusing to show their breasts to Koko. According to the complaint, “On at least two incidents in mid-to-late June 2004, Patterson intensely pressured Keller to expose herself to Koko while they were working outside where other employees could potentially view Keller’s naked body. … On one such occasion, Patterson said, ‘Koko, you see my nipples all the time. You are probably bored with my nipples. You need to see new nipples. I will turn my back so Kendra can show you her nipples.'” The Gorilla Foundation ultimately reached a settlement with Alperin and Keller.

The final section is what HR World calls the “borderline unbelievable” sexual harassment cases:

Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy and the U.S. Army: In 2000, the Army’s then highest-ranking female officer, Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, filed a complaint after being inappropriately “fondled” by Maj. Gen. Larry Smith. According to Wikipedia: “Kennedy claimed that Smith had attempted to grope and kiss her; Smith’s appointment to the inspector general’s office was later withdrawn. In 2000, an inquiry by the United States Army’s inspector general concluded that Lt. Gen. Kennedy was a victim of inappropriate sexual advances from General Smith.”

Senator Bob Packwood: Former Oregon Senator Bob Packwood, who was chair of the Senate Finance Committee, allegedly sexually harassed 29 women through “groping, forced kissing and propositioning sex.” Packwood announced his resignation from the Senate on September 7, 1995, after the Senate Ethics Committee unanimously recommended that he be expelled from the Senate for ethical misconduct.

Professor James Maas: Following an investigation and hearing by Cornell’s Ethics Committee, Maas was unanimously found to have committed sexual harassment and was disciplined by the committee. The Dean of the College upheld the Committee’s decision. Maas then sued Cornell for breach of contract for failure to observe bylaws and procedures, and negligence. A state appeals court rejected Maas’ lawsuit which had challenged the procedures that Cornell used in finding him guilty of sexual harassment.

Custom Companies: Perry Mandera, the CEO of Illinois-based trucking company Custom Companies, allegedly subjected a number of female employees to sexual harassment, including inappropriate touching, sexual jokes, sexual advances, and a sexually charged atmosphere. The women claim to have also been “required to entertain Custom Companies customers and potential clients at a number of strip clubs on Kingsbury Street in Chicago.” The women were granted more than $1 million dollars in damages.

Anucha Browne Sanders v. Isiah Thomas: In 2006, New York Knicks VP marketing Anucha Browne Sanders accused head coach Isiah Thomas of sexual harassment. Sanders filed a lawsuit against Thomas, Madison Square Garden, and parent company chairman James Dolan. The jury ruled that Thomas sexually harassed Sanders and that Dolan fired Sanders in retaliation for complaining about the harassment.  The jury awarded Sanders $11.6 million in punitive damages.

American Apparel CEO Dov Charney: According to the LA Times, Mary Nelson, a former sales employee, claims that Dov Charney “created ‘a hostile work environment‘ by using sexually explicit language and behaving in sexually inappropriate ways. During several meetings with her — including one at his home — he was dressed only in his underwear, the suit alleges. On another occasion, according to the suit, he appeared in a skimpier garment. Nelson, 36, who worked for American Apparel for a little more than a year, claims Charney also referred to women as ‘whores’ and ‘sluts’ and invited her to masturbate in front of him. Nelson’s suit alleges she was fired the day she consulted a lawyer.”

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The top sexual harassment cases of all time
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