EAST ST. LOUIS - A 20 year-old rental store clerk has won $95 million from a federal jury on claims that sexual harassment by her boss at a Fairview Heights rent-to-own store ended in a sexual assault.
Plaintiff Ashley Alford alleged that a pattern of harassment initiated by her supervisor Richard Moore began with his use of degrading pet names. She claims that the names led to a sexual assault during which Moore held the plaintiff down and masturbated and ejaculated on top of her.
Alford intervened in a suit brought originally by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2009.
The plaintiffs allege that Aaron's Rents Inc., Richard Moore and Bard Martin were responsible for the plaintiff's sexual harassment and assault.
The incidents that led to the suit took place while Alford worked at the company's Fairview Heights store between 2005 and 2006.
The 20 year-old woman claimed that Aaron's had knowledge of Moore's conduct and that it violated the company's own sexual harassment policies.
She claims Moore harassed and assaulted her.
She claims that Martin did not take action to discipline Moore or remove him from his employment.
The plaintiff's suit contains eleven counts of retaliation, sexual harassment and other claims.
The plaintiff sought damages in excess of $75,000 per count and punitive damages as relief.
The suit's trial began May 23. It was completed June 8.
The jury's total verdict amounts to $95 million.
The jury's award included damages such as:
- $250,000 for pain and suffering related to the alleged sexual assault
- $ 1.25 million for emotional distress related to the alleged sexual assault
- $3 million for pain and suffering related to negligent supervision
- $3 million related to humiliation and indignity suffered
- $3 million related to the emotional distress caused by Aaron Rents' negligent control
- $500,000 for the loss of a normal life caused by the negligent control issue
- $2 million for sexual harassment damages against Aaron's Rents and the related pain and suffering
- $2 million for loss of a normal life related to the sexual harassment
- $30 million in punitive damages against Aaron's Rents for negligent supervision of Moore
- $50 million in punitive damages related to the sexual harassment
Judy Cates, Benedict Morelli, Martha McBrayer, and David Ratner represent the plaintiffs.
Alisa Cleek, Greg Roosevelt, and Stanford Wilson represent the defendants.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Reagan presides.
The federal case tried in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois is case number 3:08-MJR-DGW-683.