2010 has seen some big-time settlements and judgements in cases involving sexual harassment, gender bias and discrimination. In cases across the United States, judges and juries are sending a clear message that these kinds of behaviors in the workplace will not be tolerated. So it’s no wonder many companies and organizations are choosing to pay out large settlements before things get ugly and reputations get destroyed. These settlements not only prevent the victims of sexual harassment from reliving the often traumatic experiences in a courtroom but they can help the accused businesses avoid a public relations nightmare. Two recent cases show that settling out of court in sexual harassment cases can be beneficial for all parties involved.

Earlier this month, an employee at Washington’s Western State Hospital, who said she was sexually harassed while on the job, received a nearly $1 million settlement. The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and the Washington Federation of State Employees agreed to settle before the case went to trial. The DSHS said that the state will pay $795,000 while the union will pay $200,000. Neither establishment has admitted guilt or wrongdoing in the case, but has agreed upon the total settlement instead of going to trial.

In April, another big settlement in a sexual harassment case was awarded to two female sheriffs in New Jersey. Litigation in the case dragged on for nearly seven years after the two women filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2006; the lengthy paper trail led investigators back to March 2002, when the initial complaints were filed in Middlesex County. One day before the case was scheduled to go to trial, the lawyers for the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department decided to settle, paying out $1.59 million to the former sheriffs. Both women complained of a sexually charged and hostile work environment. They claim to have endured years of lewd comments, indecent propositions and lewd behavior from fellow officers and supervisors. Like the previous case, Middlesex has admitted to no wrongdoing despite agreeing to pay the $1.59 million settlement.