SEXUAL misconduct in the workplace is more common than most people think. In many instances, victims do not complain for fear of retaliation, of being disbelieved, or for sheer embarrassment. However, it is only by filing a complaint can a victim of sexual misconduct at work obtain justice.
Consider the following story from an actual court case:
For nearly two years, Joan A. worked as an accounts receivable staff for a construction supply company. In February 2014, the company owner invited her and 3 other female co-workers to a restaurant saying it was a company function and they were required to go. He had been drinking alcohol and continued to drink at the restaurant.
During dinner, the owner sat beside Joan, and began to forcibly touch her against her will, on her buttocks, legs, and private parts. He told Joan to “loosen up.” Joan told him to stop. He also allegedly made several sexually offensive and vulgar remarks.
Two days after the incident, Joan filed a criminal complaint with the police. One week after the incident, she resigned from work. She went to see her doctor and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. When a police detective called the office a few days later, he was falsely told that the witnesses to the incident were not there. The owner then immediately drove the 3 witnesses to his criminal attorney’s office. Two of the witnesses were provided attorneys by the owner but the third witness refused to cooperate and resigned.
Joan sued the company and the owner personally for battery, sexual battery, sexual harassment, and failure to prevent sexual harassment.
The owner claimed that Joan consented to all of her actions towards her. He claimed that Joan was attracted to him and commented on his looks, clothing, cologne, and his personal possessions. Witnesses denied they saw him make any forcible action to Joan.
After a trial, the jury found in favor of Joan. As reported by the Daily Journal, Joan was awarded a total of $1,314,058 in damages. Curiously, in Joan’s negligence claims, the jury found the company 30 percent at fault, the owner 50 percent at fault, and Joan 20 percent at fault.
Sexual harassment could arise where unwelcome sexual conduct unreasonably interferes with an employee’s job performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment. There is sexual harassment even if it does not lead to tangible or economic job consequences.
Sexual battery, on the other hand, is not simple verbal harassment but crosses over to actions. A person has committed sexual battery when the person’s actions are intended to cause a harmful or offensive contact with an intimate part of another, and a sexually offensive contact with that person directly or indirectly results.
Sexual battery is wrong. It causes serious and lasting harm to the victim. This conduct should have no place at work or anywhere else. Employees found to have been sexually battered are entitled to various civil remedies, such as lost wages, past and future medical expenses, damages for emotional distress, and punitive damages.
[Editor's note: This article has been edited to remove the identities of those involved in the case.]
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The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential and at no-cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com.
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C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. is an experienced trial attorney who has successfully obtained significant recoveries for thousands of employees and consumers. He is named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, consistently Aselected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is a member of the Million Dollar-Advocates Forum.