Category: Sexual Harassment

“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” Star Sued for Sexual Harassment

Reality star, Lisa Vanderpump, who came to fame via the “Real Housewives” franchise, is being sued by a former employee for sexual harassment. Despite denying the claims and asserting they are false, Vanderpump is seeking to settle the case because she “just wants the case behind her.”

A former employee of Vandepump’s restaurant, “Villa Blanco” in Beverly Hills, filed a suit in April 2012, claiming that the male manager subjected her to a hostile work environment when she rebuffed his sexual advances. The plaintiff/employee, Karina Bustillos, claimed that manager Michael Govia attempted to kiss her and when she refused and reported the incident to Vanderpump, the Real Housewife ignored her complaints.

Manager Govia then subjected Ms. Bustillos to hostile behaviors, including calling her derogatory names for females, telling other servers that he “could have her”, and physically grabbing her in a rough manner.

Bustillos allegedly reported all this to Vanderpump who did not seem concerned and refused to listen. When Vanderpump responded to the allegations, she argued that the security cameras indicated no sexual harassment and that Bustillos was merely a “disgruntled employee.”

Despite arguing that she had no knowledge of the situation and slamming the Plaintiff for admitting to bad behavior on previous jobs (getting fired for drinking while at work), Vanderpump is offering a $40,001 offer to settle the case before formal litigation.

What do True Blood, Game of Thrones, and the Tudors have in Common?

When one hears the name “Anne Greene,” one may recall the lovable Anne of Green Gables or Anne Green, the poet and actress. This Anne Greene, however, is now embroiled in a bizarre tale of Hollywood legalities.

Two years ago, “Anne G.” filed a complaint against Time Warner Cable, HBO, Cinemax, and production company True Crime LLC. She alleged in the suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court that, while employed as an actress, she was sexually harassed by being forced to scenes in the nude, as are common occurrences (à la the television programs in the title of this blog).

True Crime, one of the companies named in the suit, is now filing a cross-complaint against Greene, two months before the case is supposed to go to trial. In the cross-complaint, True Crime is alleging that Anne Greene was fully aware of the nude scenes as she was supplied with several versions of the script, the first season of the show, and a prequel to the episode she would be starring in.

Apparently, Greene has caused substantial delays in filming, extra editing costs, and expensive rewrites due to her attitude. The studio claims that it had attempted to fully accommodate her wishes of not being completely in the nude at the expense of the studio. True Crime is also alleging that Greene “breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing” when she violated the nudity “rider” that the studio had.

After filming the scenes with no further complaint (since her wishes to wear “pasties” was granted), Greene apparently fired her manager/agent and filed the suit.

What Can Legally be Deemed Sexual Harassment?

The Supreme Court decision reached in Vance v. Ball State University changed the scope of sexual harassment claims that can be made in the work place. According to a recent report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the decision impacted work place protections from supervisor harassment.

According to the decision, in order for a company to be liable for wrong doing in a sexual harassment case, the harasser needs to be a supervisor of the alleged victim. If this is not the case, then the company must be aware that the harassment is occurring and then neglect to take action to make them liable. Therefore, lower level supervisors or co-workers sexually harassing employees is not enough to alone substantiate a legal sexual harassment claim. Lower level supervisors who do not have the ability to hire or fire or otherwise discipline employees are classified as mere co-workers in the law.

Take for example, Linda, an on-the line team member at a fast food restaurant. Her shift leader, Paul, inappropriately comments on her breasts and backside. Paul can’t write Linda up or fire her. All he does is schedule team member shifts and has a key code for the computers, in addition to working on the line with Linda. That alone is not sufficient to make the company liable. However, let’s say Linda then goes to the company’s human resources and reports Paul’s comments. HR responds with some advice, “just blow it off. There’s nothing we can do.” At that point, the company is aware that Linda is being sexually harassed and yet it neglected to take remedial action. Thus, the company may have opened up itself to liable issues for the sexual harassment claim.

Every case and claim is different, so not all sexual harassment incidents can be evaluated so simply. If you have a question as to whether or not your experience constitutes a legal claim against your employer, then contact Aegis for a consultation.


Source: National Women’s Law Center

Sexual Harassment Need Not be Motivated by Desire, Further Explored

hand-stop-300x300We previously blogged about this topic here, but we explore the topic further below.

The California Court of Appeals recently clarified that under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), sexual harassment attacks do not have to be motivated by sexual desire or intent.  In the case of MAX TAYLOR, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. NABORS DRILLING USA, LP, Defendant and Appellant, Taylor was hired in June 2010 as a “floorhand” on an oil rig. Taylor, a heterosexual, alleged he was harassed by his supervisors who called him “queer,” “fagot [sic],” “homo,” and “gay porn star” and subjected him to other humiliating and harassing conduct.  After trial concluded, the jury awarded Taylor $160,000 in damages, including $10,000 for past loss of earnings and $150,000 in emotional distress.  The jury also awarded $680,520 in attorney’s fees.

Nabors appealed the jury verdict and argued Taylor failed to prove he was harassed “because of his sex and/or perceived sexual orientation” and that the harassment was motivated by actual sexual desire or intent by the harassers. The Court of Appeal affirmed the jury verdict on the ground that “the focus of a [sexual harassment] case is whether the victim has been subjected to sexual harassment, not what motivated the harasser.” (Cal. Gov’t Code § 12940(j)(4)(C)).   The appellate court further reasoned “a heterosexual male is subjected to harassment because of sex under the FEHA when attacks on his heterosexual identity are used as a tool of harassment in the workplace, irrespective of whether the attacks are motivated by sexual desire or interest.  Pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) (42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.), which prohibits sexual harassment, ‘harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire.’” Furthermore, that “California courts have recognized that a sexual motive or interest is not required for sexual harassment under the FEHA. (See Pantoja v. Anton (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 87, 114 [plaintiff “need not show that the conduct was motivated by sexual desire”]; Mogilefsky v. Superior Court (1993) 20 Cal.App.4th 1409, 1418 [“The focus of a cause of action brought pursuant to Government Code section 12940 is whether the victim has been subjected to sexual harassment, not what motivated the harasser”].)

The Court of Appeal affirmed the jury award in its entirety, except that it reduced Taylor’s past loss of earnings damages because the jury determined he was lawfully terminated for poor job performance.  Therefore, the judgment was modified to reduce Taylor’s damages from $160,000 to $150,000 (reduction of $10,000 in past loss of earnings).  The award of attorneys’ fees of $680,520 was affirmed.

Los Angeles Councilman Accused of Sexual Harassment

Huizar facing the mediaSan Diego isn’t the only city that needs to “keep it classy” in the words of anchorman, Ron Burgundy. The city of Los Angeles is facing accusations of sexual harassment, namely toward Councilman Jose Huizar.

A judge set a November 10th trial date for the case that was filed by former aide, Francine Godoy. Godoy, who began working for Councilman Huizar in 2006, alleges that the politician repeatedly approached her for “sexual favors.” When she refused, Godoy claims Huizar executed a systematic campaign of retaliation and harassment against her. Godoy’s attorney, Michael Eisenberg, is asserting that the plaintiff has more than 20 witnesses to call to the stand.

Huizar, however, is claiming a different story. He alleges that he and Godoy were in a mutually consensual relationship. The councilman has declared Godoy’s claims as “false and malicious.”

Godoy began working for Huizar seven years ago, earning approximately $47,000 a year. Upon her departure, Godoy was making in excess of $132,000 a year.

Huizar is also currently named in a personal injury lawsuit. A $185,000 settlement is in the works for a former police officer Huizar rear-ended in a car accident in 2012. Huizar was driving a city vehicle, therefore, the council is currently involved with settlement negotiations.