A highly-rated California school catering to children with learning issues and one of its co-founders was sued on Dec. 3 by a former employee for battery and sexual assault. The school is located in Santa Monica, and the lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The unidentified woman bringing the lawsuit also seeks unspecified damages for gender harassment, wrongful termination and emotional distress.
The woman claims in her lawsuit that she accepted a position at the special needs school in 2012 and quickly rose to become a key member of its staff. She also says that she developed a close personal friendship with the married couple that founded the school. The lawsuit was brought over an incident that allegedly took place at the couple’s home after a January 2015 party.
According to the lawsuit, the woman consumed alcohol at the party, and she accepted an invitation to stay the night in a guest room rather than drive while under the influence. She claims that she was disturbed during the night by the school’s co-founder who sexually assaulted her. The woman says that she reported the assault to police the following day, but no charges were filed in connection with the alleged incident. The woman resigned her position the following month, which her lawsuit claims was due to the amount of emotional trauma she had suffered and the amount of stress her continued presence at the school was causing.
Experienced employment law attorneys will have likely encountered victims of workplace sexual harassment who are hesitant to come forward because they fear that their accounts will not be believed or their employers will retaliate against them. Attorneys may seek to calm such anxieties by explaining the protections provided to workers by state and federal law. They could also point out the severe sanctions that employers in California may face if they take retaliatory action against workers who file harassment or discrimination claims.