Over the past few years, there have been countless stories in the media about women speaking up about the harassment, discrimination and abuse they have faced in the workplace. Many have complained that the legal system failed to give them justice, and that they were therefore forced to go public with their accusations. However, it's important to remember that, however difficult these cases may be, victims of sexual harassment can and do win lawsuits against the people who mistreated them in the workplace.
In a recent California court case, a jury ordered an entertainment executive and two of his companies to pay $11.1 million to a former employee who says he harassed, assaulted and then fired her after she rebuffed his sexual advances.
The case involved a woman who worked for the online television service FilmOn.TV Networks as well as Hologram USA, a theater that produces musical performances featuring holograms of entertainers such as Billie Holiday and Jackie Wilson.
The woman complained that her boss touched her in an inappropriate manner, made her watch a pornographic video and brought a male stripper to the office to perform for an executive's birthday. She says she was fired in November 2016 after she rejected advances by her boss. Her lawsuit claimed that the companies knew or should have known about the harassment and touching but did nothing.
The $11.1 million award includes $3.1 million in compensatory damages for lost wages and other losses, as well as $8 million in punitive damages. The jury found that the executive and his co-defendants acted with malice, which opened the door to an award for punitive damages.
A second former employee joined the lawsuit, saying she also was subjected to sexual harassment and wrongful termination. A jury will hear her claims this summer. A lawyer for the executive said his client continues to deny the allegations.
Sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace are illegal, and workers should not have to put up with it. A lawyer with experience in this area of employment law can help workers understand their rights and review their legal options.