Jerrie Gray worked at a Tyson Foods plant where she
was exposed to comments, gestures, and physical
contact that, she alleged, constituted sexual harassment.
Tyson disputed the allegation, arguing that the
behavior was not unwelcome, that the complainedabout
conduct was not based on sex, that the conduct
did not affect a term, condition, or privilege of employment,
and that proper remedial action was taken
in response to any complaint by Gray of sexual
harassment. During the trial in federal court, a witness
for Gray repeatedly volunteered inadmissible testimony
that the judge had to tell the jury to disregard.
At one point, upon an objection from the defendant’s
counsel, the witness asked, “May I say something
here?” The judge told her she could not. Finally, after
the jury left the courtroom, the witness had an angry
outburst that continued into the hallway, in view of
some of the jurors.
The jury awarded Gray $185,000 in compensatory
and $800,000 in punitive damages. Tyson believed
that it should not have been liable, that the awards
of damages were excessive and unsupported by evidence,
and that the inadmissible evidence and improper
conduct had tainted the proceedings. What courses
of action may Tyson pursue?
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