Horne Announces Victory in Sexual Harassment Case Against ASARCO

PHOENIX (Thursday, April 28, 2011) -- Attorney General Tom Horne said today the United States District Court has entered judgment on behalf of the State of Arizona and Plaintiff Angela Aguilar of Tucson after an eight-day jury trial based upon a claim that Ms. Aguilar was subjected to sexual harassment by her supervisors at ASARCO, LLC’s Mission Mine complex in Sahuarita, Arizona. 

The Attorney General’s Office and Ms. Aguilar filed their respective lawsuits in March and July 2008, after the Attorney General’s Office’s administrative investigation concluded that there was reasonable cause to believe that ASARCO had discriminated against Ms. Aguilar by allowing two supervisors to harass her and by not promptly addressing and removing pornographic graffiti in the restrooms. The investigation also found reasonable cause to believe that Ms. Aguilar was retaliated against by ASARCO after she complained about the harassment. The Attorney General’s lawsuit and Ms. Aguilar’s lawsuit were consolidated and removed to the United States District Court in Tucson. 

“Sexual harassment in the workplace is intolerable, and I am pleased at the outcome in this case,” Horne said. “This kind of treatment Ms. Aguilar had to endure is not acceptable, and my office is committed to prosecuting such crimes to the fullest extent.”

The lawsuit alleged that, after successfully completing her probationary period with ASARCO, Ms. Aguilar was subjected to several forms of sexual harassment. First, a direct supervisor repeatedly propositioned Ms. Aguilar for sex, made inappropriate comments about her appearance, and touched her inappropriately. Next, pornographic drawings, including a pornographic drawing that identified Ms. Aguilar, appeared in the portable toilet used by Ms. Aguilar and the harassing supervisor. Finally, after transferring to another work area, a second supervisor harassed Ms. Aguilar by singling her out for unwarranted criticism of her work performance and setting her up for disciplinary warnings. Although Ms. Aguilar complained to ASARCO management at each phase, ASARCO failed to take prompt or effective action to end the harassment. As a result of ASARCO’s inaction, the lawsuit alleged, Ms. Aguilar felt compelled to resign her employment. 

The jury found in favor of Ms. Aguilar on her sexual harassment claim and awarded her $1 in nominal damages and $868,750 in punitive damages. The State will also ask the Court to order ASARCO to take specific steps to ensure that ASARCO will not allow other employees to be sexually harassed at work. The jury did not find that ASARCO retaliated against Ms. Aguilar for complaining about the harassment. 

Assistant Attorney General Ann Hobart represented the State of Arizona. Ms. Aguilar was represented by Sandra Forbes of Tucson. The Arizona Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against persons because of their race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, national origin and genetic testing in the terms and conditions of their employment and also protects persons who have been retaliated against for opposing discrimination in the workplace. Any person who believes that their civil rights have been violated should call the Arizona Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division toll-free statewide at 1-877-491-5742 or toll-free TDD at 1-877-624-8090, or file a complaint online at www.azag.gov.