THE ROLE OF JUROR ATTITUDES TOWARD SEXUAL HARASSMENT ON DAMAGE AWARDS FOR EMOTIONAL DISTRESS IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT CASES
Burris Garner, Elizabeth Amy
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Research suggests that the prevalence of sexual harassment is high in both educational and employment contexts (Foulis & McCabe, 1997). Despite the number of sexual harassment claims, there is a paucity of research examining juror decision making with regards to compensatory damage awards in this context (Cass, Levett, & Kovera, 2010). Research on juror damage assignment in cases of preexisting psychological injury (e.g., “eggshell psyche”) is also sparse. Additionally, little research has been conducted to evaluate the effect that juror attitudes towards sexual harassment have on juror damage awards and the impact of closing arguments on juror decision making. Against this background, the aims of the present study are to (a) expand on previous research by further examining how juror attitudes towards sexual harassment, as measured by the Sexual Harassment Attitude Scale (SHAS; Mazer & Percival, 1989), affect determinations of non-economic, emotional injury claims in a sexual harassment scenario where a plaintiff has preexisting emotional issues (b) test the impact of closing arguments on juror decision making and (c) examine the interaction between closing arguments and juror attitudes on juror decision making, specifically whether juror attitudes towards sexual harassment, as measured by the Sexual Harassment Attitude Scale, will differentially impact juror’s damage awards in response to plaintiff’s or defendant’s closing arguments. The main effect of juror attitude was found to be significant, with mock jurors with intolerant attitudes toward sexual harassment awarding greater amounts in damages than mock jurors with tolerant attitudes toward sexual harassment. The implications of these results are discussed.