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Case Name Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co. EE-MN-0087
Docket / Court Civ. No. 5-88-163 ( D. Minn. )
State/Territory Minnesota
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Case Summary
This case is the first time a sexual harassment claim was successfully brought against an employer as a class action. On August 15, 1988, two women who worked in the Eveleth iron mine filed suit against the mine under Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act. They sought class action ... read more >
This case is the first time a sexual harassment claim was successfully brought against an employer as a class action. On August 15, 1988, two women who worked in the Eveleth iron mine filed suit against the mine under Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act. They sought class action certification as a class of "all women who have applied for, or have been employed in hourly positions at Eveleth Mines at any time since December 30, 1983, and who have been, are being, or as the result of the operation of current practices, will be discriminated against with regard to the terms and conditions of their employment because of their sex," and an injunction forcing the mine to adopt a sexual harassment policy. The case was initially heard in front of Judge James M. Rosenbaum. Plaintiffs were represented by private counsel.

Background
Affirmative action came to the Iron Range in 1974 when the U.S. government forced steel companies fill at least 20% of their jobs with women and minorities. The following year, Lois Jenson was hired as one of the first female workers in the Eveleth iron mine in northern Minnesota. Along with her fellow female coworkers, she faced sexual and gender-based harassment from the men who believed women should remain at home and not compete with men for scarce jobs. Jenson was also stalked by one of her supervisors. Complaints filed with management went unheard.

In 1984, Jenson filed a grievance complaint through her union and also mailed a complaint to the Minnesota Human Rights Department detailing the abuse she experienced in the mines. After reviewing the case, in 1987 the state asked the mine's part owner Ogelby Norton Co. to pay $11,000 in damages to Jenson and adopt a sexual harassment policy, but the company refused.

Class action certification
The Minnesota Attorney General agreed to bring the case as a class action, but Jenson eventually sought private counsel. In 1988, employment discrimination lawyers Paul Sprenger and Jean Boler filed the initial complaint on behalf of Jenson and senior union member, Pat Kosmach. One other woman joined the case and an amended complaint was filed to include her as a plaintiff and the union as a defendant on March 14, 1989. Frightened by the possibility of retaliation, other women who worked in the mines circulated a petition speaking out against the lawsuit. On February 1, 1991 plaintiffs moved to certify the class action and to consolidate consideration of class issues with trial. Discovery proceeded and a hearing on this motion began on May 13, 1991. On Dec 16, 1991, Judge Rosembaum certified the class, denied the injunction, and granted the motion to consider further class-related issues at trial. 139 F.R.D. 657 (D. Minn. 1991). This case became the first sexual harassment lawsuit in history to be given class action status.

Liability Trial
The plaintiffs moved to bifurcate the trial on July 16, 1992, and the case was split into a two phases to separately determine liability and damages. The liability trial was held in front of Judge Richard Kyle beginning on December 17, 1992 in St. Paul, Minnesota. On May 14, 1993, the judge ruled for plaintiffs on their class claims of sex discrimination in promotion and sexual harassment under both Title VII and the MHRA, dismissing other claims but awarding attorney's fees. 824 F.Supp. 847 (D. Minn. 1993). He also granted injunctive relief, and ordered Eveleth to educate all employees about sexual harassment and implement a sexual harassment policy. More women joined the lawsuit to claim damages, including a number who had signed the petition against the lawsuit and had testified on behalf of Eveleth Mines in the first trial. About this time, Jenson and another plaintiff in the case were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had to stop working at the mine.

Damages Trial
Judge Kyle allowed the damages claims to be heard before a special master, appointing retired federal magistrate Judge Patrick J. McNulty. Later media interviews and accounts of the case describe this part of the case as very difficult for plaintiffs and other women involved: in order to minimize the company's liability, Eveleth's lead counsel sought to prove that the women either caused the harassment by their own behavior towards their male coworkers, or were lying about the severity and the psychological effects of the harassment. The judge permitted Eveleth's lawyers to obtain the women's medical histories from birth, and before the trial plaintiffs endured close to 80 days of depositions that explored their past personal and sexual lives in great detail.

The damages trial began on January 17, 1995 and continued on and off in the following months. According to later interviews with plaintiff's attorney Sprenger, throughout testimony Judge McNulty frequently fell asleep; when awake, he seemed to enjoy hearing about the women's ordeal. His post-trial report, issued on March 28, 1996, called the women "histrionic" and recommended awards between $2,000 and $25,000 to each class member, with an average award of $10,000. Plaintiffs' counsel appealed to Judge Kyle, who affirmed the report and recommendation on November 12, 1996. Plaintiffs subsequently appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued an opinion on December 5, 1997 vacating the damages award. 130 F.3d 1287. They remanded for a jury trial on the issue of damages. The mine owner filed a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied to hear the case in June 1998. Trial was set to proceed in January 1999.

Settlement
On December 31, 1998, Judge John Tunheim approved a settlement between plaintiffs and the mine company for a total of $3.5 million dollars. Exact awards to individual plaintiffs were not disclosed. On March 14, 2000, both sides were granted attorney's fees and costs, but this order was subsequently vacated on a joint motion, perhaps indicating a private settlement between the parties regarding attorneys' fees. The judge issued an order dismissing all remaining claims with prejudice on April 7, 2000.

Related case
A second docket exists for a case that has the same individual plaintiffs, Jenson and Anderson, and is marked as related: 5:93-cv-00026-RHK-JMM. This case was brought on February 26, 1993, in front of Judge Kyle and settled separately on August 5, 1997. Documents for this case are unavailable, and it is unclear exactly what the subject matter of this case is or how it is related to the broader class action.

- 08/22/2010
Hetali Lodaya - 07/06/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination-area
Discipline
Harassment / Hostile Work Environment
Other Conditions of Employment (including assignment, transfer, hours, working conditions, etc)
Pay / Benefits
Promotion
Training
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
EEOC-centric
Direct Suit on Merits
General
Pattern or Practice
Retaliation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State Anti-Discrimination Law
Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e
Defendant(s) Eveleth Expansion Company
Eveleth Taconite Company
Ogelbay Norton Company
Ogelbay Norton Taconite Company
United Steel Workers of America, Local 6860
Plaintiff Description Named plaintiffs were mine employees, who sought class certification for "all women who have applied for, or have been employed in hourly positions at Eveleth Mines at any time since December 30, 1983, and who have been, are being, or as the result of the operation of current practices, will be discriminated against with regard to the terms and conditions of their employment because of their sex."
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Unknown
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filed 08/15/1988
Case Closing Year 2000
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co.
mnopedia.org
Date: Nov. 18, 2019
By: Emma Dill
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Real Women of "North Country"
womenshistory.org
Date: May 6, 2006
By: National Women's History Museum
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
5:88-cv-163 (D. Minn.)
EE-MN-0087-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/15/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
District Court Opinion (certifying the class and denying preliminary injunction) (139 F.R.D. 657) (D. Minn.)
EE-MN-0087-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/16/1991
Source: Google Scholar
District Court Judgment (for plaintiffs in part and dismissed in part) (824 F.Supp. 847) (D. Minn.)
EE-MN-0087-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/14/1993
Source: Google Scholar
8th Circuit Opinion (130 F.3d 1287)
EE-MN-0087-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/05/1997
Source: U.S. Court of Appeals website
Supreme Court Decision (denying petition for writ of certiorari) (524 U.S. 953)
EE-MN-0087-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/26/1998
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Kyle, Richard House (D. Minn.) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-0003
Lay, Donald Pomery (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-0001
Mason, John M. (D. Minn.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Rosenbaum, James Michael (D. Minn.) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-0004
Tunheim, John R. (D. Minn.) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Plaintiff's Lawyers Boler, Jean M. (Washington) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Coler, Susan M (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Fleming, Timothy B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Garrity, Thomas L. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Lang, Jane (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Schaefer, Lawrence P. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Sprenger, Paul (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Troth, Rebecca K. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Wolsky, Gregory L. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Duffy, Walter J. Jr. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Engberg, John G. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Goldstein, David J. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Herzog, Winfred S. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Higbee, Scott A. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Jendrzejek, David P. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Klein, Joseph R. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Sheran, Thomas R. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Shroyer, Thomas J. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Stevens, J. Vincent (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Stumo, Mary E. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001
Young, Philip J. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
EE-MN-0087-9001

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