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SAN DIEGO - Six women who formerly worked for Ralphs Grocery Co. have been awarded $30.6 million in a sexual harassment suit, The Associated Press reports.
The plaintiffs, who claimed that a store director subjected them to violent behavior and sexual harassment, were awarded $5 million each in punitive damages and a total of $550,000 for pain and suffering, according to the AP.
"Women who work in this type of position need to be protected," said Philip Kay, a San Francisco lawyer who represented the employees. "This will send a message to companies that they must not tolerate this kind of action any further."
The women, who worked for Ralphs in the 1990s, claimed store director Roger Misiolek touched them inappropriately, abused them verbally and threw phones, shopping carts and 40-pound mailbags at them. When they complained to company officials, they said he was transferred to another store.
Representatives for Ralphs could not be reached for comment, but company spokesman Terry O'Neil told the North County Times that the company will appeal.
"Obviously, Ralphs is very disappointed with the result," O'Neil said. "We believe there are many issues with this case that still need to be resolved."
In 1998, another jury awarded the plaintiffs $3.3 million in punitive damages, the AP reports. But a judge set aside the award after she learned a juror improperly researched Ralphs' net worth from documents outside the court and then shared the information with other jurors.
A state appeals court upheld the first jury's harassment verdict and $550,000 judgment for emotional distress and ordered a second trial to re-decide the punitive damages.
Los Angeles-based Ralphs operates more than 450 stores, including Food4Less centers. It is a division of the Kroger Co.