We no longer live in a Mad Men era, but sexual harassment in the workplace remains very much alive and well–and, based on recent jury verdicts, expensive.  (See here [“California Appellate Court Approves Nearly $2.25 Million Jury Verdict in Sexual Harassment Case”] and here [“Stunning $167 Million Verdict to Plaintiff Alleging Sexual Harassment and Retaliation by Her Employer”] for some of our blog posts on this topic.)

In the latest case, Taylor v. Nabors Drilling (Jan. 13, 2014), the California Court of Appeal affirmed a verdict of $150,000 in noneconomic damages and $680,520 in attorneys fees in favor of plaintiff Max Taylor, who alleged, among other things, that his employment at Nabors Drilling USA, L.P. was rife with sexually charged hostility.  Taylor testified that several times a day, his supervisor called him a “queer,” “fagot,” “homo,” and “gay porn star.”  He further testified: “I didn’t have a name. My name was not Max. It was queer. It was homo. The whole time. . . . [E]verything was basically f’ing fagot, come here, f’ing homo, come here, grab that. . . . It was the worst working environment I have ever been through in my life. Words can’t describe [it]. . . . It was inhumane . . . the way they treated me.”

Taylor also testified that another supervisor urinated on him and spanked him on his butt “all the time.”

The Court concluded that substantial evidence supported the jury’s sexual harassment verdict, finding that “here sex was used as a weapon to create a hostile work environment for [Taylor].  [His supervisors] ’employed attacks on [Taylor’s] identity as a heterosexual male as a tool of harassment.’ . . . [A] heterosexual male is subjected to harassment because of sex under the [California Fair Employment & Housing Act] 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.”

Significantly, the $150,000 damages award reflected compensation exclusively for the plaintiff’s emotional injuries.

For California companies, these recent jury verdicts underscore the importance of providing anti-sexual harassment training, maintaining zero-tolerance anti-sexual harassment policies, and bolstering such policies with practices that effectively exact discipline on harassers and encourage victims to communicate concerns to management.  Not only do proactive anti-harassment policies and practices minimize exposure to legal liability, but they also encourage a more productive, loyal workforce.

*****

Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.

Polina Bernstein

Polina Bernstein

Polina Bernstein founded Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. in 2009 and is lead litigation counsel at the firm.

Diana Friedland

Diana Friedland

Diana Friedland is a partner at Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. Her practice focuses on employment litigation and counseling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content