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“Jenson V. Eveleth Taconite Co.”
Normarie Castellon
Professor Lisa Browning
Business Law – LEG 100
Spring Term 2012

Abstract In this paper, we will discuss the case of Jenson V. Eveleth Taconite Co. In August 1988, Lois Jenson and Patricia Kosmach filed a class action suit against Eveleth Mines alleging sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), Minn.Stat. § 363.03, subd. 1(2). This case was the first sexual harassment class action to reach the federal court system, and was overseen by U.S. District Court Judge James Rosenbaum. We will look at this case and summarize the actions leading up to the lawsuit, discuss how management could have prevented the lawsuit, discuss ethical considerations, determine which sources of law would be most relevant, and finally make recommendations on what management could as alternate resolutions.

“Jenson V. Eveleth Taconite Co.”
Summarize the actions that lead to the lawsuit. This particular case was a very big lawsuit for its time and has been made into a movie we know as North Country. Almost from the beginning, according to court documents, Ms. Jenson and other women were subjected to sexual harassment, verbal abuse, threats, stalking, and intimidation. This behavior has since become known as "strategic" or "territorial harassment," in this case acts perpetrated by men in a predominately male workplace.
Lois Jenson was a female worker at the Eveleth Taconite Co Mines from March 25, 1975 until January 25, 1992. During her work there, she was sexually harassed by her fellow male co-workers. On October 5, 1984, Jenson mailed a letter of complaint to the Minnesota Human Rights Department, and a week later, her tires were slashed for this. After trying to go through the proper routes of management and filing claims, Jenson was continuously harassed and sexually discriminated against. On August 15, 1988, Attorney Paul Sprenger filed Lois E. Jenson and Patricia S. Kosmach v. Eveleth Taconite Co. in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. The case was not granted in District Court until December 16, 1991. It made legal history when U.S. District Court Judge James Rosenbaum permitted the case to proceed as the first class action ever for sexual harassment.
Discuss what management could have done in terms of risk management to have prevented the events that lead to the lawsuit. There are quite a few things that could have been done to prevent this lawsuit from ever reaching a court, especially a district court. In 1984, Jenson wrote a complaint about the abuse to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, an action that caused her tires to be slashed. In 1987, the state determines probable cause and moves for conciliation, but Ogelbay Norton Co., the Cleveland-based part owner and manager of the mine, refuses to pay the state's request for $6,000 in punitive damages and $5,000 for mental anguish to Lois. It shouldn’t have taken 3 years for the state to even find probable cause, and right from the beginning, the state should have sent someone in to ensure the women were being taken care of. Management should have never let it get as far for Ms. Jenson to even file a complaint to the state about the harassment, and it should have ended right there.
Discuss the ethical considerations reflected in the laws applicable to this case. There is a whole book of ethical considerations reflected in this case. Not only was there sexual harassment taking place, but it was being looked over as if it weren’t happening. Cries for help were being ignored, and management didn’t do anything to prevent or even help the women being subjected to the type of stuff the men did to these women. Ms. Jenson and other women were subjected to sexual harassment, verbal abuse, threats, stalking, and intimidation.
Determine which sources of law would be most relevant in this case and how management could leverage knowledge of those sources to prevent similar instances in the future. This case brought to light a lot of sexual harassment going on in the workplace, not only at the Eveleth Taconite Co., but across the United States. “Employees are protected under both state and federal law against workplace sexual harassment. Federal law remedies for workplace discrimination are based upon Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [FN1], which applies to employers with fifteen or more employees. People who work for smaller employers are usually protected by similar state anti-discrimination laws. Under federal law, same-sex sexual harassment can support a claim against an employer. State laws may vary on the issue of same-sex harassment” (Larson, 2003). There is no reason for sexual harassment, and even though this law was in place when this lawsuit went to district court, it was still one of the biggest cases of its time and brought a lot of recognition to the fact that sexual discrimination was still taking place while management sat idly by and let it happen.
It should be obvious that the callous pattern and practice of sexual harassment engaged in by Eveleth Mines inevitably destroyed the self-esteem of the working women exposed to it. The humiliation and degradation suffered by these women is irreparable, and although fifteen women settle with Eveleth Mines for a total of $3.5 million on the eve of going to trial on December 30, 1998, the damages were still done. Lois Jenson was diagnosed with PTSD shortly after she stopped working at the mine in 1992, and I am sure many other women are suffering from that as well as other mental ailments that will never truly be cured.
Recommend what management might be able to do to pursue alternative resolutions (outside of court). With the sexual harassment law in place, management should take the proper steps to ensure all of its workers are properly educated on the matter with designated programs. In 1993, U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle ordered the company to develop programs to educate all employees on sexual harassment. Not only should these programs be made mandatory, but they should also be done every few months to remind the workers of the effects of sexual harassment on the workplace, and what could happen if a case should come up where there is sexual harassment being done in the workplace. This case, although older, is one that is still very popular in the world of law. Not only did this case become the first civil action lawsuit against sexual harassment to reach the U.S. District Courts, but it also opened the doors for other women to step forward, whether they were in Eveleth Taconite Co. or in a different company. There were so many different things that management could have done differently so that this case could have been settled before it ever reached the level that it did. Just knowing that management just sat by while everything was going on is very disturbing, and highly unethical.

References
Bingman, Clara and Gansler, Laura. (N.D.). Class Action: The Landmark Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law. Location: New York.
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. (1995). Retrieved from: http://www.legalmomentum.org/legal-knowledge/legal-cases/employment-cases/jenson-amicus.pdf
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit. (1997). Retrieved from: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-8th-circuit/1136685.html.
The evolution of sexual harassment awareness. (N.D.). The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2011/1114/The-evolution-of-sexual-harassment-awareness/Lois-E.-Jenson-v.-Eveleth-Taconite-Co
Larson, Aaron. (2003). Sexual Harassment Law. Retrieved from: http://www.expertlaw.com/library/employment/sexual_harassment.html

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