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August 2012

Los Angeles Employment Team Secure Defense Verdict in Harassment Matter

On August 2, the Los Angeles Employment Group, led by partners Theresa Kristovich and Joshua Wagner, secured a complete defense verdict for their clients, a high-end golf club and on-site restaurant ("the Company") after a four week jury trial in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Associates Eleanor Welke and Marc Holmquist, as well as paralegal Marita Navarro, rounded out the Gordon & Rees team.

The Plaintiff, a former beverage cart server, alleged nine causes of action including hostile work environment harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, wage and hour claims, gender discrimination and breach of contract. Plaintiff’s Unpaid Wages claim was summarily adjudicated in advance of trial.

Plaintiff claimed that she was subjected to a sexual assault on the golf course by a golfer in July 2007. Plaintiff alleged the Company mishandled the investigation into her alleged sexual assault and that she was retaliated against and further harassed after she complained about the incident. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged the Company posted her incident report in the Pro Shop, forced her to wear an objectifying uniform, picked on her for not wearing her name tag or complying with the dress code, reduced her hours, and that the management team became "distant" and gave her dirty looks. Plaintiff also alleged she suffered severe emotional distress, gained forty pounds and was forced to find alternative employment which involved working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

In defense of these claims, we established at trial that the Company not only immediately and properly investigated the incident, but also presented evidence that it began implementing a standard uniform policy prior to Plaintiff's complaints. Additionally, the uniform policy was enforced for all employees, both men and women.

We argued that there was no continuing violation and that many of the Plaintiff's claims were statutorily time-barred. The Plaintiff’s expert testimony that she was anxious and depressed was impeached with images and entries from Facebook and other web sites and blogs. Through defense expert testimony, we presented evidence of Plaintiff’s pre-existing personality disorder, limited insight and overwhelming sense of entitlement. We also presented evidence that Plaintiff completely mitigated her damages and suffered no economic loss.

The Hon. Judge Mel Red Recana granted Gordon & Rees’s Motion for Partial Non-Suit as to Plaintiff's Breach of Contract claim. After less than three hours of deliberations, the jury returned a defense verdict on each of the remaining seven causes of action.


Joshua B. Wagner