Case law update – Guardia v. Roger Stuart Clothes, Inc. Unfortunately, sexual harassment in the workplace occurs frequently across California and the nation. The most common form of sexual harassment is a hostile work environment. Cases involving hostile work environment involve many and different kinds of verbal and physical conduct, whether sexual or nonsexual in nature. Such conduct creates a hostile and offensive working environment.
To prove a hostile work environment, an employee must show that he or she was subjected to unwelcome sexual advances, conduct or comments; and the harassment was so severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment.
In Guardia v. Roger Stuart Clothes, Inc., plaintiff was subjected to unwelcome sexual advances, conduct and comments, and the harassment was so severe that it created an abusive working environment. Plaintiff sued the Roger Stuart Clothes Inc. and the president for sexual harassment and hostile work environment, among other things. During her employment, the president of the company often discussed with her unwelcome sexual comments, had males take their pants off and walk in their underwear in her presence, and demeaned employees by the use of inappropriate nicknames such as racial slurs and sexual pet names. Further, the president promoted the viewing of pornography in the workplace, and at one point, released a false letter internally that plaintiff had sex with another employee.
The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and was awarded among other things, lost past earnings, past and future pain and mental suffering, and punitive damages against both the employer entity and the president of the company.
Cases like this should reassure California employees that their rights under California law are still very much protected by the courts. Even though sexual harassment in the workplace is sadly a frequent occurrence, employees can rest assured that their rights will be protected by the legal system if violated. If you believe that you are or have been a victim of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, contact a lawyer immediately.