Challenges Associated with Sexual Harassment Claims Against Municipalities

March 30, 2018

The recent claims by a second employee of Lynwood about being sexually harassed by a member of the city council who also served as the mayor pro tem are under investigation along with similar allegations previously made by another female employee of the city. The accusations of sexual misconduct offer an opportunity California laws in place to protect municipalities against claims for damages and the steps individuals who are victims must take to protect their right to compensation in such cases.

Sovereign immunity and the rights of the victims of sexual misconduct

Sovereign immunity traces its origins to early English common law prohibiting claims against the king. It became a part of the U.S. legal system when early settlers adopted the English common law. States, including California, use sovereign immunity to limit lawsuits for damages against the government, but the California Tort Claims Act carves out exceptions to the ability of state and local governments to shield themselves against claims.

The California Tort Claims Act

If an employee of a business is subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, one of the remedies the person has is to file a lawsuit against the employer for allowing such conduct to occur. The procedure is to retain an attorney with experience handling sexual harassment and sexual misconduct claims who files a lawsuit in state or federal court against the offender and the employer when evidence shows the employer did not take adequate and appropriate measures in response to complaints.

When the employer is a city or other municipality, the California Tort Claims Act imposes additional rules and procedures that must be met before a lawsuit can be commenced. Among these is the requirement that a person suffering an injury notify the municipality of the particulars of the claim, including the nature of the injury and how it occurred.

The notice must be in writing and include the following information:

  • Name and address of the person making the claim
  • The date, location and a description of the circumstances giving rise to the claim
  • A description of the damages suffered by the claimant
  • Name of the offending employee and the agency for which the person worked
  • The monetary amount claimed as damages

A victim claiming damages for sexual harassment must file a notice under the Tort Claims Act within six months of the date the offending conduct occurred. Failing to comply with the notice requirements of the act could result in an employee losing the right to recover damages against a government entity even though evidence might be available to prove the agency failed to take appropriate measures to protect the employee from the sexual misconduct or the ensuing retaliation.

Anyone who has been subjected to sexually inappropriate conduct or comments while at work should arrange to speak to an attorney about pursuing a claim for compensation. Victims must keep in mind that delaying taking action could jeopardize their rights when the offending individual is employed by a government entity.

Contact us

The Cifarelli Law Firm, LLP, has been at the forefront in California in aggressively pursuing compensation for the victims of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the workplace for more than 25 years. Whether the claims are against individuals, businesses or government entities, our skilled and knowledgeable attorneys understand statutory rules and procedures that must be taken to preserve the rights of victims to receive maximum compensation for damages they suffered.  Contact us today by calling (949) 502-8600 or use the form on our website to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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