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Total Articles: 27

California Court of Appeal Reminds Employers About the Importance of Thorough Harassment Investigations

Dawson v. Country Club of Rancho Bernardo, No. D064654 (March 23, 2015): In an unpublished opinion, a California Court of Appeal reversed an order granting summary judgment in favor of the employer, Country Club of Rancho Bernardo, in a food and beverage manager’s sexual harassment case against the Club and her supervisor. This case serves as a reminder for employers to take sexual harassment complaints seriously, given that the failure to do so could have costly implications down the road.

No Employer Liability If There is No Actionable Harassment or Discrimination, California Court Rules

An employer cannot be held liable for failure to prevent sexual harassment under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) if there is no actionable sexual harassment, the California Court of Appeal has ruled. Dickson v. Burke Williams, Inc., No. B253154 (Cal. Ct. App. Mar. 6, 2015). Likewise, a jury’s finding that an employer is not liable for sex discrimination precludes liability for failure to prevent discrimination.

California Adopts Unprecedented "Yes Means Yes" Law, Changing the Way Colleges Must Investigate Sexual Assault Allegations

On September 28, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown announced that he had signed SB967, the so-called Yes Means Yes bill into law.


California has become one of the first states to require employers to provide preventive training on "abusive conduct" in the workplace. “Abusive conduct” is a broader and vaguer standard than unlawful harassment. The new law, AB 2053, modifies the requirements of AB 1825, the now-familiar California law that mandates bi-annual, anti-harassment training for supervisors.

New California Law Requires Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for Farm Labor Contractors

An amendment to the California Farm Labor Contractor Act requires that farm labor contractors participate in at least one hour of sexual harassment prevention training each year. In addition, the amendment requires that an applicant for licensure as a farm labor contractor execute a written statement attesting that the contractor’s members of management have been trained in the prevention of sexual harassment.

California Adds ‘Abusive Conduct’ to Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for Supervisors

Employers subject to California’s mandatory “AB 1825” sexual harassment training requirement for supervisors will need to revise their programs to include prevention of “abusive conduct,” following an amendment (AB 2053) to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Franchisor Not Liable for Sexual Harassment Claims Asserted by Franchisee’s Employee, California High Court Rules

A franchisor could not be held vicariously liable under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) for alleged sexual harassment in the franchisee’s workplace in the absence of evidence establishing the franchisor “retained or assumed a general right of control” over employment decisions and the “day-to-day aspects of the workplace behavior of the franchisee’s employees,” the California Supreme Court has ruled, 4-3. Patterson v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, No. S204543 (Cal. Aug. 28, 2014). Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal’s decision and reinstated summary judgment in the franchisor’s favor.

California Supreme Court: Franchisor MAY Be Liable for Franchisee's Employee's Sexual Harassment Claim*

Taylor Patterson, an employee at a Domino's franchise in southern California, sued her employer (called "Sui Juris LLC") and her former manager for sexual harassment. She also sued Domino's Pizza, LLC, the franchisor.

Supervisor’s Conduct Supported Same-Sex Harassment Claim, California Court Rules

Finding an intern had produced sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude his supervisor engaged in a pervasive pattern of harassing conduct “because of sex,” including numerous gifts, frequent lunch purchases, along with sexual jokes and displays of pornographic computer images, the California Court of Appeal has allowed his harassment suit to proceed, reversing a lower court’s summary judgment against the plaintiff. Lewis v. City of Benicia, No. A134078 (Cal. Ct. App. Mar. 26, 2014). The Court further found the trial court erred in excluding evidence of the alleged harassment in the intern’s retaliation claim against the City of Benicia and ordered a retrial on the retaliation claim.

California Sexual Harassment Law Amended, Sexual Desire Not Required

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a revision to the definition of sexual harassment under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act to make clear that employees who assert claims of sexual harassment need not show the harassment is motivated by sexual desire. The new law becomes effective on January 1, 2014.

Under New California Law -- No Proof of Sexual Desire Required to Prove Sexual Harassment

On August 12, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 292 which amends section 12940 of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The bill addresses the decision in Kelley v. Conoco Companies and clarifies that an individual who sues for sexual harassment under state law need not prove that the sexually harassing conduct was motivated by sexual desire.

California Employers, 2013 is Training Year for Sexual Harassment Prevention

The deadline for training under AB 1825, the California law designed to instruct supervisory employees and managers in the prevention of sexual harassment at the worksite, is December 31, 2013.

Connecticut Governor Vetoes Bill Regulating Non-Compete Agreements

On July 12, 2013, Governor Dannel Malloy vetoed legislation that would have limited the use of non-compete agreements in Connecticut (which we covered in a recent issue of the Connecticut eAuthority). The bill would have imposed certain requirements on the use of non-compete agreements in the context of mergers and acquisitions. Using his veto authority, Governor Malloy sent the law back to the state’s General Assembly, citing its potential to produce legal uncertainty and ambiguity due to undefined and unclear terms.

Court of Appeal Affirms Summary Judgment on Sexual Harassment Claim and More

The Court of Appeal's decision in McCoy v. Pacific Maritime Association covers a lot of ground. The opinion contains analysis of a variety of issues important for pre-trial and trial lawyers alike.

Court of Appeal: Employee May Use Ralph Act in Certain Sexual Harassment Cases

Sylvia Ventura was a custodian, working for American Building Maintenance or ABM. According to her lawsuit, she suffered serious harassment, including touching, threats, etc. She sued not under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, but under what is known as the Ralph Act, Civil Code Section 51.7. That section provides in part:

Court of Appeal Imposes Franchisor Liability for Franchisee Harassment Claim

A Domino's franchisee's employee claimed sexual harassment against her supervisor and her employer, the franchisee (Sui Juris). However, she also sued franchisor Domino's Pizza. Normally, only the "employer" can be held liable for FEHA violations. But the victim, Patterson, claimed that Domino's was also her employer because of its control over franchisee Sui Juris. The trial court disagreed, but the Court of Appeal reversed.

Court of Appeal: Let Jury Decide Co-Worker Harassment Case

The Court of Appeal issued a "writ" of mandate, overturning a summary judgment order on a harassment claim. Mustafa Rehmani worked for Ericsson in Silicon Valley. He is Pakistani. Many of his co-workers are Indian. Rehmani claimed the Indian co-workers gave him a rough ride. The court describes a series of incidents, over a few months, in which there were political jokes, terrorism jokes, and the like. However, these jokes were pretty isolated, occurring about a month apart.

Verdict for Employee in California Sexual Harassment Case Affirmed Despite Inconsistent Testimony

Minor inconsistencies in witness testimony need not render a plaintiff-employee’s account of sexual harassment so “inherently improbable” as to require reversal of the jury’s verdict, the California Court of Appeal has held. The Court thus affirmed judgment in favor of the employee in a sexual harassment case.

California Plaintiff Must Show Severe or Pervasive Harassment to Prevail, Appeals Court Rules

The California Court of Appeal has held that judgment for an employer is proper under California law where the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that she was subjected to severe or pervasive workplace harassment based on her gender. Brennan v. Townsend & O'Leary Enterprises, Inc., No. G042398 (Cal. Ct. App. Oct. 18, 2010). Accordingly, the Court affirmed judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the employer.

Court of Appeal: "Me Too" Evidence of Harassment Admissible to Prove "Intent"

So, a plaintiff in a sexual harassment case attempts to introduce evidence that the harasser harassed other employees, but not in the plaintiff's presence, and that the conduct was not directed to the plaintiff.

Court of Appeal Rejects Same-sex Harassment Claim

Sounds like sexual harassment? Wrong. The court of appeal decided that the supervisor's verbal abuse was not truly based on Kelley's sex. Therefore, although rude, the conduct was not actionable under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Court of Appeal: Sexual Harassment Claim Untimely

You have to file an administrative charge with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing within a year of the last act about which you claim is harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. So, when Irene Trovato testified at her deposition that the last time Michael Allyn harassed or retaliated against her was January 31, 2007, the charge she filed on May 8, 2008, was untimely.


Sexual harassment litigation most often involves claims by employees that co-workers or supervisors have created a "hostile work environment". But the anti-harassment laws do not stop there. Unlawful workplace harassment also may come at the hands of non-employees, such as customers, vendors, and others who interact with employees.

Retaining Employees Accused of Harassment.

With the passage of Assembly Bill 1825, the law that requires many California employers to provide sexual harassment training to supervisors, today’s employers are better informed about how to prevent, recognize, and respond to inappropriate workplace conduct than ever before. But even when an employer follows best practices designed to eliminate workplace harassment, the process will not be perfect. Employees and others in the workplace will continue to engage in conduct contrary to an employer’s specific direction and policies.

Effective Anti-Harassment Training.

Benjamin Franklin’s declaration that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings true today as it did in the 1700’s. In the workplace context, for example, anti-harassment and discrimination training (i.e., “EEO” training) is the “ounce of prevention” that helps prevent unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims. Even employers who do not believe in Franklin’s idiom may be required to heed it.

Court Reverses $1.4 Million Spanking Verdict Due To Flawed Jury Instructions.

A state appellate court in California recently reversed a $1.4 million jury verdict in favor of an employee who claimed that she and others were spanked during company sales meetings. According to the California Court of Appeal, since the jury was not instructed that to prevail the employee had to show that the harassment occurred because she was female, the verdict could not stand. Orlando v. Alarm One, Inc., No. F050759, F051470, California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District (January 14, 2008).

Effective Employee Training Programs: Money In The Bank.

“We’ve been sued.” Those few words can strike panic in employers, particularly in California, where multi-million dollar verdicts in favor of employees are not uncommon. What can employers do to reduce their potential exposure for workplace related claims? Adopting and fairly administering lawful policies and procedures is a good start, of course. However, employers also must take the next step to train employees about what is expected of them and the options available for resolving workplace issues within the organization.