Employee Sexual Harassment Claim Persists Under “Continuing Violation”

As an employee in California, you are entitled to work in a safe and harassment-free workplace. When an employee is sexually harassed in the workplace, they have a certain period of time, known as the statute of limitations, in which to file a claim. However, the Court of Appeals recently ruled that some claims of sexual harassment that go past the statute of limitations may be included under the theory of “continuing violation.” If you or a colleague is being sexually harassed, talk to an experienced California employment law attorney today to learn more about your legal options.

Facts of the Case

In Blue Fountain Pools & Spas Inc. v. Superior Court, an employee alleged that she had been egregiously sexually harassed over a sustained period by a salesman at their company since she began work there in 2006. She repeatedly complained to management about the salesman’s behavior, but they did nothing. However, she did not file a complaint for sexual harassment with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing until after she left her position in 2017. Immediately prior to her leaving, the salesman had allegedly yelled at her, used gender slurs, and physically assaulted her. The employer refused to remove the salesman and terminated the complaining employee’s health insurance. At trial, her prior employer moved to bar her claim of a hostile work environment on the grounds that they were past the statute of limitations.  

Ruling of the Court

The trial court denied the employer’s motion, and the employer appealed to the California Court of Appeals, seeking a motion to compel the trial court to acquiesce to their request. However, the Court of Appeals upheld the ruling of the trial court, allowing the sexual harassment claims of the employee to move forward.

The Court of Appeals held that the employee’s sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims were not barred by the statute of limitations on three grounds under the continuing violation theory. First, several of the sexual harassment incidents alleged happened in the year prior to the termination of her employment. Second, new management took over the company in 2015, thus creating a new opportunity to seek help from her employer. Even if the statute of limitations had begun to run because the conduct of prior management made complaining futile for the employee, the new management would have stopped it. Third, there is an issue of fact for the trier of this case as to whether a reasonable employee would have concluded that continuing to complain was futile in her position. As such, the Court of Appeals sided with the trial court and the employee in allowing her case to continue.

Talk to an Employment Law Attorney Now

You should never have to suffer sexual harassment in the workplace, and if you or someone you know has been victimized by sexual harassment, it is important to know that you have legal options. To learn more, call or contact a knowledgeable California employment law attorney in your area today.