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Sexual harassment: California jury awards $812,000 in damages

Sexual harassment in the workplace is not uncommon. But many workers in Los Angeles may not even realize when they are a victim of sexual harassment because they presume inappropriate physical touching is required. It is not.

Sexual harassment can occur verbally or even with gestures. Many victims of workplace sexual harassment see no point in reporting it because they feel as though nothing will be done. However, that is not true, either, as you can see from the following case.

On Thursday, May 17, a woman left a California courtroom $812,000 richer and presumably very happy. However, all that money is likely not the key thing she was after. She was probably happier about the actual jury verdict -- which found her employer guilty of sexual harassment.

The 44-year-old cleaning person said that her supervisor had spent months harassing her with sexual advances and lewd comments. She said that he then raped her in October 2004 in an office on the second floor of the building where they worked.

She reported the incident to managers at her employer, ABM Janitorial services. However, they told her to not go to the police and not to say anything to anyone about the incident. She says they also made her sign a confidentiality agreement. No action was ever taken against the supervisor and she was fired from her job a few months later for complaining. Despite her discomfort in her position, she had stayed on because it was the only support she had for her five children and herself.

Sexual harassment in the workplace or even outside of the workplace is not a matter to be taken lightly. The Superior Court jury in this case didn't, awarding the woman $800,000 for her emotional distress and $12,000 for lost wages. It also found ABM Janitorial Services responsible for sexual harassment and retaliation for the woman's firing.

If you live in California and are a victim of verbal or physical sexual harassment, you have rights under the law. You may benefit by understanding them and the options available to you. No one should have to ignore sexual harassment that could damage their lives.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Jury awards janitor $812,000 in harassment case," Bob Egelko, May 18, 2012


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