Wednesday, April 10, 2013

California Appellate Court Holds That An Employer Can Be Held Liable for Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Committed by An Employee

VENTURA v. ABM INDUSTRIES INC. - December 20, 2012.

The Second District of the California Court of Appeals has recently upheld a jury verdict where the jury held that repeated sexual advances, harassment and physical violence by a male co worker against a female co-employee was actionable against both the employee and the employer.  The plaintiff brought claims with theories of recovery based upon negligent hiring, supervision and retention of the offending employee by the employer as well as violations of California Civil Code 51.7, a part of the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

In one of my prior blog posts, I laid out the provisions of section 51.7.  This statute allows for enhanced remedies for civil claims which relate to offenses against persons based upon their gender.  In this case, the jury held that the unwanted sexual advances violated this statute and that the employer, by failing to act to prevent this conduct, "ratified" (or implicitly approved) the conduct, thereby exposing themselves to liability.