The Gorilla Foundation in San Francisco recently settled claims by two former employees, Nancy Alperin and Kendra Keller, who were allegedly sexual harassed when forced to show a gorilla their bare breasts.

Apparently, the foundation president Francine Patterson interpreted the sign language of Koko the gorilla and determined that Koko was curious about the breasts and nipples of Alperin and Keller. The plaintiffs claimed that Patterson told them that “if [they] did not indulge Koko’s nipple fetish, their employment with the Gorilla Foundation would suffer.”

The plaintiffs believed that they were never informed prior to accepting their job offers that they would be required to take off their clothes to bond in a more personal way with Koko.

Both women claimed they refused to show Koko their nipples.

The Gorilla Foundation had denied that Patterson ever translated Koko’s communications into sexual requests: “There are no allegations that Dr. Patterson’s translations were sexual advances of any type, that the statements involved ‘sex,’ or that they resulted in any adverse consequences to Keller or Alperin,” its response said. “There are no facts suggesting any discrimination based on conduct of a sexual nature.”

Alperin and Keller asked for more than $1 million in damages in their sexual discrimination and wrongful termination suit. However, attorneys on both sides declined to comment on the terms of the settlement agreement.

Incidentally, Koko’s first words, “eat,” “drink” and “more,” evolved into a vocabulary of some 1,000 signs, including such abstract concepts as “love,” “jealous,” and “shame.” Koko actually had a live inter-species internet chat in 1998.

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