California employers may need to revisit their sexual-harassment-prevention training to ensure compliance with the newly enacted Senate Bill 1343 (SB 1343). Prior to SB 1343, only businesses employing 50 or more workers were required to provide sexual-harassment-prevention training to supervisory employees.
In a sexual harassment related case, a federal court in Alabama has permitted a male's sex-bias claim to proceed against a women's accessories company, Charming Charlie, after the company's manager made sexist and sexually harassing comments about men during the hiring process. Thereafter, the company offered the prospective employee a position but failed to give him a start date. The case is Owen v. Charming Charlie, No. 13-S-1009-S, 2013 WL 3968658 (N.D. Ala. July 31, 2013). According to the plaintiff employee, Courtney Owen, a male plaintiff, applied for a retail position at a Charming Charlie store. The manager of the store called him and offered a job interview. During the interview, the manager told Owen that she rarely hires males. Owen claims she further stated that men typically "don't like" the company's policy requiring all sales associates to wear six accessories while working." Owen claims he replied that he had no problem with the six accessory requirement, whereupon the hiring manager stated again that men typically do not like and "can't do" the dress code. She then told Owen that she "might be willing" to hire his on a temporary basis, and that if he followed the dress code, he "might" be hired on a permanent basis. The company sent Owen an offer letter the next day, together with the hiring documents. Owen completed the documents as requested and received a telephone message to join the "set-up team" to prepare for the grand opening of a new store. Owen attempted several times to follow up, but never heard back from the company. Owen then complained for sex discrimination/sexual harassment with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for having been denied employment on the basis of sex. Owen alleged in his complaint that "the accessories requirement and other policies have a disparate impact on male applicants and employees and intentionally discriminate against male applicants and employees, without sufficient business justification, and [defendant] knows this. In addition to its policies having a disparate impact and weeding out male applicants, respondent engages in a pattern and practice of intentional discrimination against males in the hiring process and in the terms and conditions of employment of any males who are hired and uses its accessories policy as a pretext for intentional discrimination in hiring and in other terms and conditions of employment."
A California Court of Appeal reversed the dismissal of a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a former legal secretary against a Century City law firm and one of its attorneys. Jeri Elster had alleged that attorney Joel Fishman repeatedly sent her copies of sexually explicit emails, and that Finestone & Richter, APC chose not to stop to it despite her complaints. The trial judge had found these claims to be inadequate and dismissed the case.
In a sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation complaint filed with California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Francine Godoy accuses Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar of sexual harassment. Ms. Godoy, former deputy chief of staff, stated in her complaint that she was "subjected to sexual harassment [quid pro quo and hostile work environment] and retaliated against when I refused advances." Her complaint alleges that she was harassed and retaliated against for refusing to engage in sex with Councilman Huizar. Godoy further alleges that she was subjected to "impermissible, non-job-related questions," "a work environment [not] free of discrimination," termination and demotion and even a "sabotaged ability to run for office."
A Vista Superior Court jury awarded $1.5 million to a woman that claimed sexual harassment by an Oceanside police officer. According to Kimberli Hirst's complaint filed in 2010, she alleged that she was subjected to repeated, offensive and unwanted sexual behavior at work for several months, including sexual comments about her body and requests for sexual acts. Hirst worked for the city as a forensic phlebotomist. She alleged that the officer who harassed her did so in locked rooms at the Oceanside Police Department or at the Vista jail.
A verdict of $1.5 million was awarded recently in a sexual harassment case brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against employer New Breed Logistics, a North Carolina-based logistics services provider. The verdict was rendered on behalf of four employees. It included awards of $177,094 in back pay and $486,000 in compensatory damages, as well as $850,000 in punitive damages. Puntive damages are awarded to punish a company whose conduct is found to be malicious or wilfull.
On August 5, 2013, a twelve person jury found Palm Desert real estate developer Suresh Shah guilty of sexually harassing Karen Moran. Ms. Moran was a former leasing agent for Shah and the mall manager at the Town Center Mall in Yucca Valley.
Sexual harassment lawsuits against employers require the employee victim to show that the sexual misconduct was so severe or pervasive that it altered the conditions of employment and thereby created a hostile work environment. A stray remark here or there is usually not enough to sustain a case. It is not enough that the employee herself be offended by the remarks. Rather, it must also be shown that a "reasonable person" would find the work environment to be "hostile or abusive."
A federal jury awarded $20,251,963 to eight former employees of Four Amigos Travel, Inc. and Top Dog Travel, Inc., a Florida vacation agency with offices in Largo, Orlando and Lake Lauderdale, Fla., who suffered sexual harassment and retaliation. The verdict was announced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently. It was alleged by the EEOC, which filed suit on behalf of the four employees, that travel agency owner R. Schlom and male managers working at Four Amigos / Top Dog's Largo facility subjected female employees to egregious sexual harassment every day. The harassment included unwanted sexual advances, physical touching and repeated propositions for sex (quid pro quo) in a work environment filled with sexual banter, abuse of power and disrespect for women. The company also fired a manager for bringing the victims' complaints forward, according to the suit.
Sexual harassment is a common, but sometimes under-recognized, workplace hazard that affects up to 70 percent of women and 45 percent of men in the workplace according to a noted a sociologist. Most often it involves a harasser creating a "hostile work environment." This occurs when an employee feels intimidated or uncomfortable due to persistent inappropriate sexual remarks and innuendo in the workplace. Harassment can also involve a "quid pro quo" scenario, where sexual favors are demanded in exchange for keeping one's job.