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February 22 2011

5 Craziest Sexual Harassment Cases in HIstory

posted by Christy

The 1990s brought a wave of sexual harassment cases and the flood gates have since been busted open.  The past 20 years have shown that no one is safe from a sexual harassment claim, as suits were brought against Presidents, clergymen, and famous athletes.  While the majority of cases are filed against men or corporations, woman have also had their day at the defense table.  These issues were also brought to national attention through Hollywood, in the 1994 film Disclosure and the 2005 film, North Country, which is based on a true story.  And in no particular order here is LSJ's list of the top 5 craziest sexual harassment cases in history.

1. Bill O'Reilly and Andrea Mackris.  In October of 2004, Andrea Mackris, the former producer of the O'Reilly Factor, sued the famed television host for $60 million, alleging that O'Reilly engaged in quid pro quo and created a hostile work environment (two legally cognizable sexual harassment claims).  Mackris provided the court with quotations from explicit phone calls allegedly between her and O'Reilly in which he "advised her to use a vibrator and told her about sexual fantasies involving her."  Click here to listen to excerpts of the transcript.  O'Reilly fought back with an extortion claim against Mackris.  Within 15 days the parties reached an out of court settlement, which speculators state that O'Reilly probably paid Mackris millions of dollars.  O'Reilly indirectly denied the allegations following the settlement on his television show.  Mackris is still employed by Fox and O'Reilly has continued his moralist attitude by criticizing the media and pop culture for providing access to too much sex.  Click here to read more about the settlement of this suit.

2. The Seinfeld case.  In 1993 a male employee of Miller Brewing Co. was fired when he apparently offended a fellow female employee by discussing a Seinfeld episode.  In the episode, a classic in my opinion, Seinfeld doesn't remember the name of a girl he is dating and in order to refresh his memory she tells him her name (Dolores) rhymes with a female body part.  Hilarious, right?!  Apparently not, because the male employee was fired and subsequently brought suit against Miller Brewing Co. alleging that the sexual harassment claim was false.  A 10-woman, 2-man jury decided against Miller Brewing Co. and ordered them to pay $26.6 million dollars to the former employee.  Click here to read more about this case.

3. Koko the Gorilla.  The gorilla's former caretakers filed a lawsuit against their supervisor for $1 million dollars, alleging that they were forced to show their breasts to Koko, who apparently had a strange fetish for that sort of thing.  Humans and gorillas apparently have more in common than we thought.  The caretakers further alleged that when they refused to expose their breasts they were fired.  The parties ultimately reached a settlement with the Gorilla Foundation, the California based owner of Koko.

4. The Archdiocese of Boston.  At some point everyone has cringed at this one.  In 2002, Boston area clergymen were accused for sexually harassing children.  Unsurprisingly this case drew worldwide attention and resulted in the Catholic Church announcing a "zero-tolerance" policy on abusive clergy.  Ultimately, hundreds of victims were discovered after names of priests were turned over and after the Archdiocese pored through its records.

5. Isaish Thomas and Anucha Browne Sanders.  Who doesn't want to play with Isaish Thomas, apparently Anucha Browne Sanders.  In 2007, Thomas, who was head coach and general manager of the New York Knicks, was found guilty of sexually harassing Sanders, one of the team's executives.  Madison Square Garden was ordered to pay her $6 million dollars for creating a hostile work environment and $2.6 million for retaliation.  Sanders, who was fired after complaining about the incident, also received $3 million from her former supervisor.

While some of these lawsuits are bizarre and might garner a laugh or two, sexual harassment is a serious issue and there are many laws to protect victims.  Therefore, if you find yourself in a potential sexual harassment situation please contact your HR department or attorney and find out what your rights are.

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Christy

About the Author: Christy
christy@thelawstreetjournal.com

Christy graduated from law school in May 2011 and is now working for the U.S. Navy as a JAG. She is practicing as a military prosecutor and will move to military defense in December 2012. She is currently stationed in Florida and enjoys traveling, playing soccer, and watching Dexter and Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

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