Employer’s duty to stop sexual harassment the subject of recent lawsuits

Two recent lawsuits allege that an employer failed to protect the employee against sexual harassment.

The news recently has been ablaze with stories of workplace sexual harassment and retaliation in California's thriving tech industry. In two separate lawsuits involving Silicon Valley firms, former employees claim that their former employers failed to protect them against the alleged harassment, a violation of California and federal law.

Claim of discrimination against venture capital firm

In the first lawsuit, a female employee of the investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers alleged that she was terminated from the firm after complaining of unwanted sexual advances from a co-worker. According to the lawsuit, the alleged sexual approaches occurred during a business trip. Although the woman rebuffed the sexual advances, she alleges that she was later pressured into having sex with the co-worker.

However, after the woman ended the sexual relationship, the co-worker allegedly engaged in acts of retaliation against her, including excluding her from important business meetings. Although the woman complained to management repeatedly about the co-worker's conduct, the company allegedly did not intervene on her behalf.

Later, the woman filed a gender bias lawsuit against the company and was later fired allegedly for performance reasons. Although a judge found that there was enough evidence of malice on the company's part for the jury to consider awarding punitive damages, the jury ultimately ruled in favor of the company in a recent verdict.

Allegations involving Google

In the other lawsuit, a former employee of Google alleged similar treatment by the search engine giant. According to the lawsuit, the employee, a former software engineer, was subjected to foul language and other forms of sexual harassment by two supervisors.

The former employee alleged that when she complained about her treatment, management downplayed her accusations. It is also claimed that management later reprimanded her and even promoted one of the accused. The lawsuit is still pending.

Unfortunately, similar allegations of sexual harassment and gender bias are increasingly coming out of the tech industry. In this industry, men far outnumber women 4 to 1 or more. As a result, industry critics have recently criticized the industry for often condoning what amounts to a hostile work environment and being slow to encourage the recruitment and career growth of female employees.

Duty to protect against sexual harassment

Both California and federal law impose on employers a duty to prevent sexual harassment. This can include having an anti-harassment policy and anti-harassment training for management and workers. Once allegations of sexual harassment have been brought to the attention of management, the law requires the employer to take reasonable steps to investigate and stop it.

Unfortunately, despite this clear duty, employers sometimes fail to live up to their legal obligations. If you are experiencing sexual harassment or discrimination in your workplace, contact an employment law attorney. The attorneys at the Armstrong Law Firm can aggressively work on your behalf to protect your rights and aggressively work on your behalf to hold the responsible parties accountable for their wrongdoing.