The following blog entry is written from a defendant’s position as trial approaches. Reviewing this kind of briefing should help potential plaintiffs and clients better understand how parties in personal injury cases present such issues to the court.
(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this sexual harassment case and its proceedings.)
The holdings of these California and federal courts, in addition to the California Legislature’s stated intent, clearly apply to the underlying complaint of sexual harassment by Ms Black in this case. Allowing evidence of Ms. Black’s prior sexual conduct, including prior complaints of sexual harassment, with anyone other than the alleged harasser would undermine the clear intent of the California Legislature to prevent the discouragement of complaints and the unnecessary badgering of harassment victims. See Rieger v. Arnold, 104 Cal. App. 4th, at 460. Ms. Black’s conduct with individuals other than the Plaintiff, whether in or out of the workplace, is not relevant to the central issue of whether Plaintiff engaged in conduct that violated XYZ’s sexual harassment policy justifying his termination.
A case based upon the conduct of a [claimant’s] coworkers should not be turned into an investigation of [claimant’s] prior sexual history. Knoettigen v. Superior Court, 224 Cal. App. 3d 11, 15 (1990). In short, Ms. Black’s private life and/or sexual history with individuals other than Plaintiff does not provide lawful consent to the offensive sexual conduct engaged in and acknowledged by Plaintiff in this case, and which resulted in his termination.
Moreover, inquiry into sexual aspects of Ms. Black’s private life not only intrudes upon Ms. Black’s right to privacy, but the privacy of third parties as well. See Mendez v. Superior Court, 206 Cal. App. 3d 557, 568 (1988). Insofar as [Plaintiff] seek[s] to pry into [Ms. Black’s] sexual conduct with others, [he] necessarily seek[s] to pry into the third party’s sexual conduct. (citation). Id. When privacy is implicated, the appellate courts have been vigilant to provide extraordinary relief to prevent impairment of these protections. Knoettigen v. Superior Court, 224 Cal. App. 3d. at 14-15. (citations omitted) While theoretically such third parties could seek to appear in this action and oppose [Plaintiff’s efforts] (citation), such privilege under these circumstances is meaningless…. See Mendez v. Superior Court, 206 Cal. App. 3d at 568.
Plaintiff’s efforts to inquire into and introduce evidence pertaining to Ms. Black’s prior sexual history and/or conduct with others, her alleged banter and horseplay with others (including her purportedly showing nude pictures on her cell phone to others), and prior complaints by Ms. Black of sexual harassment against others, is precisely that which the Legislature had declared offensive, harassing, intimidating, unnecessary, unjustifiable, and deplorable. See Knoettigen v. Superior Court, 224 Cal. App. 3d at 15. When an employee seeks vindication of [her] legal rights, the courts must not be party to the unnecessary infliction of further humiliation. Id. (See Part 5 of 5.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.