Sexual harassment in the workplace is nothing new. However, laws have evolved over the last several decades to include many more protections and legal causes of actions for victims. Unfortunately, it still happens, and remains a very serious problem, as we’ve seen with several high-profile accusations made against famous power players like Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly. Even our own president has been accused of such conduct. But it’s not isolated to the seedier side of show business or within wealthy circles.
According to a recent news article from The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix has just settled a claim levied by an executive involving allegations of sexual harassment at the workplace. The employee who filed the lawsuit was formerly the director of human resources. According to his complaint, he said that during the months he worked at the company, he was regularly the target of sexual harassment and said the company has an unwritten policy of targeting such harassment and employment discrimination. Once the lawsuit was filed, the employer was able to have the lawsuit removed from state court and submitted for arbitration. As our Los Angeles employment attorneys can explain, some employers will require their employees to sign a contract that requires all disputes be submitted to binding arbitration instead of filing a civil lawsuit. While this provision is usually in place to benefit the employer, it is enforceable if it was supported by adequate consideration and negotiated at arms length.
In this case, the employer reached a settlement with the former human resources director in the amount of $1.5 million. There was a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement in connection with this settlement offer, so the former employee is prevented from discussing the case or the settlement. However the details of the allegations were stated in the complaint were that the 52-year-old employee had previously worked in human resources in several intentional corporations. He was then hired at the company, but prior to this first day, his son was killed. His employer said they understood this, according to the complaint, and allowed employee to work at his own pace for the first sixth months on the job while he dealt with this loss of his son.
He claimed he was harassed and discriminated against and a male superior made unwanted sexual advances towards him which constituted sexual harassment. He allegedly told the other employee was heterosexual and was not interested in pursuing a relationship with him. However, the unwanted advances allegedly continued as did the other forms of discrimination and harassment. He then alleged that he brought this up with the employee who hired him, but she did not take any action.
This is one of the most important aspects of a sexual harassment claim. While an employer may not be liable for every instance of sexual harassment by an employee, the employer will be liable for not taking action and allowing a hostile workplace to continue to exist. If a company fails to investigate and does not take disciplinary action against employee who engaged in sexual harassment, this could likely lead to liability.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Netflix Settles with Executive Claiming Sexual Harassment, October 20, 2017, By Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter
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Ban-the-Box Now Law in California Employment Cases, July 11, 2017, Employment Lawyer Blog