California Employers Can Be Liable to the Victims of Workplace Sexual Harassment

Some employers mistakenly believe that whatever happens between two individuals is not their business or concern, because “it’s between them.” The truth of the matter is that the employer can be directly liable for sexual harassment under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

“The FEHA imposes two standards of employer liability for sexual harassment, depending on whether the person engaging in the harassment is the victim’s supervisor or a nonsupervisory co-employee. The employer is liable for harassment by a nonsupervisory employee only if the employer (a) knew or should have known of the harassing conduct and (b) failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action…Because the FEHA imposes this negligence standard only for harassment ‘by an employee other than an agent or supervisor’… by implication the FEHA makes the employer strictly liable for harassment by a supervisor.” Myers v. Trendwest Resorts, Inc. (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 1403, 1419–1420

Similarly, under federal law, a supervisor is treated as the employer’s agent, making the employer vicariously liable to the victim of harassment for the harassment “created by a supervisor with immediate (or successively higher) authority over the employee.” Faragher v. City of Boca Raton (1998) 524 U.S. 775.

It Is Very Expensive for California Employers to Defend Against Sexual Harassment Cases

A common reaction to sexual harassment lawsuits by employers is “We didn’t do anything wrong.” Leaving aside, for a moment, the merits of any specific sexual harassment case and the strengths and weaknesses of the employer’s defenses, it bears noting that sexual harassment cases are very expensive to defend.

More often than not, they are hotly contested given the nature of the dispute. According to some estimates, the average cost to defend a harassment lawsuit is $250,000. In California, that number is of course likely to be much higher. In certain sexual harassment cases, the fees and costs can easily approach seven figures. Thus, regardless of whether the employer did anything wrong, and notwithstanding the likelihood of success at trial, the sheer expense of defending against alleged sexual harassment can, in and of itself, be staggering.

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Can Damage Employee Morale

Sexual harassment in the workplace has negative effects on all workers, including decreased performance, low morale, and increased turnover. The hostility created by workplace sexual harassment can increase absenteeism, decrease morale, be a source of gossip, animosity, stress, and anxiety among staff. All of this can easily impact the operation of the business.

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Can Damage the Employer’s Reputation

Not all publicity is good publicity. Being sued for sexual harassment in the workplace can certainly damage the reputation of an employer. It goes without saying that people would prefer not to work in places where sexual harassment runs rampant. Most folks simply want to be left alone to do their jobs in peace. Therefore, if an employer is sued for sexual harassment, the employer becomes a much less desirable place to work in the eyes of potential candidates who would have otherwise applied for a job.

Need Advice? Contact Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C.

Employees that need advice about sexual harassment in the workplace or employers that require advice regarding a possible lawsuit, or those that just want information, can contact Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C. We offer a complimentary case evaluation and are known for our firm, no-nonsense, highly successful approach. Take a stand against workplace sexual harassment, protect your rights, and seek justice. Find out how our experienced law firm can help you now.