Who is Liable for Sexual Harassment?
Dr. Richard Vladovic, a board member of the Los Angeles Unified School District, is under investigation after two employees of the LAUSD, one male and the other female, reported him for sexual harassment and employee intimidation. Dr. Vladovic is alleged to have threatened the jobs of both employees and to have otherwise harassed and bullied them, in some cases sexually. Dr. Vladovic has denied the allegations.
Employer liability for sexual harassment
Sexual harassment of an employee is prohibited under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. Under the Act, the employer is responsible for ensuring harassment does not occur at the workplace, and must take reasonable steps to prevent it from happening. An employer can be held liable for sexual harassment of an employee carried out by another employee, even if the offending employee is neither a supervisor nor a manager. The offending employee may also be held personally liable.
What if the employer was unaware of the harassment?
An employer can be held liable for the sexual harassment of an employee by another employee, even if the management is unaware of the offending behavior. If the employer has not taken the required steps to prevent harassment from occurring, such as educating staff about their legal obligations and displaying a poster made available by the Department for Fair Employment and Housing, the employer may be held responsible for the harassment even if unaware of the goings-on. If the offending employee is non-management, the employer may avoid liability if they take immediate steps to stop the harassment once it comes to their attention. However, if the offender is in a management position, the employer is strictly liable, and may be required to pay monetary damages to the harassed employee.
If you have been on the receiving end of behavior that has made you feel uncomfortable in the workplace, call the sexual harassment attorneys at The Ruttenberg Law Firm, P.C. at 310.207.4022 or contact us online to discuss how best to handle the situation.