Juries are sending a strong message on sexual harassment in the #Metoo era. On March 6, 2018, a Southern District of New York jury awarded a woman $13.4 million for suffering sexual harassment when she worked at a sugar refinery plaint in Yonkers, New York.
As part of this verdict, the jury awarded $11.7 million in punitive damages. While the court will likely reduce that amount, that award sends a strong message.
The plaintiff, Rosanna Mayo-Coleman, worked at the Yonkers refinery for more than twenty years when she was supervised by a new male manager. She was one of four women in a workforce of approximately 150 men.
The harasser regularly commented on her looks and made repeated sexual overtures. He, for example, said to her on the phone that she had a “sweet ass” and that he “would tap that.” On top of these comments, he would often call her into his office, close the door, pull her close and one time grabbed her behind. She was sexually harassed so frequently she had to seek psychiatric counseling and treatment.
Ms. Mayo-Coleman repeatedly complained about the sexual harassment to management from 2010 onward, including in a letter that said the sexual harassment must stop. But the company did not take the necessary proactive steps to stop it. It instead launched an investigation she characterized as incomplete and cursory.