What's My Sexual Harassment Case Worth?

Victims of sexual harassment regularly contact attorneys at Markson Pico LLP and ask "what's my case worth?" Because we don't pretend to have crystal ball, there is no way to respond with certainty. But we look to history for guidance--history gleaned from past published judgments, verdicts and settlements. Here is sampling of historical trends in California:

  • California appellate panel affirms an award of $1,237,086 in compensatory damages and an equal amount in punitive damages against an employer. "...there was substantial evidence supporting the jury's finding that plaintiff's complaint of sexual harassment of a colleague was a motivating reason for her discharge." Green v. LAIBCO, #B212933, 192 Cal.App.4th 441, 2011 Cal. App. Lexis 119, 111 FEP Cases (BNA) 783 (2nd Dist.).
  • Jury awards a LAPD officer $1 million in economic damages, and $1.3 million in non-economic loss, including emotional distress. She alleged discrimination and abuse while assigned to the Valley Traffic Division in 1996, and was retaliated against for reporting the harassment to Internal Affairs. Borck v. City of Los Angeles, #2:99-cv-11575 (C.D. Calif. 2009). In 2008, the city settled a similar claim for $2.25 million. Fuller v. City of Los Angeles, L.A. Co. Super. Ct. #BC346464 (Unpub. 2008).
  • Three women police officers who won $3.5 million for sexual harassment settle their claims for $4 million. The settlement includes $3 million from the city and $1 million from a law firm that was sued by the plaintiffs in a second lawsuit for allegedly defamatory remarks made by counsel after the jury verdict. Frieders v. City of Glendale, #BC263271, 42 (2086) G.E.R.R. (BNA) 1167 (Cal. Super. 11/12/04).
  • San Francisco suburb to pay almost $2 million in damages and legal costs to settle a sexual harassment suit brought by four women ex-officers, who claimed they suffered indignities, received different treatment and were denied promotional opportunities because of their gender. Wowak v. City of Sunnyvale, #5:03-cv-00394, case dismissed; settlement reported at 174 Lab. Rltns. Rptr. (BNA) 466 (N.D. Cal. 5/6/04). [2004 FP Sep]
  • California county agrees to pay $250,000 to a former ranger for gender bias and harassment. She alleged continuing mistreatment after the county settled an earlier lawsuit that she had filed. Christensen v. Monterey County, as rptd. in the Monterey Herald (3-23-2003).
  • California appeals court affirms a sexual harassment award against a city housing authority in the amounts of $500,000 for emotional distress damages, $173,866 in interest, $611,898 in attorneys' fees, and $11,986 in costs and $30,000 in discovery sanctions. Walker v. San Francisco Housing Auth., #A0954767, 100 Cal.App.4th 685, 122 Cal.Rptr.2d 758, 2002 Cal. App. Lexis 4442 (2002).
  • A $30 million punitive damages jury verdict against a private employer has been cut to $8.25 million by the judge. Gober v. Ralphs Grocery, Super. Ct. #N72142, San Diego Co. Calif., rptd. in the S.F. Recorder (7/17/2002).
  • FBI pays a settlement of $150,000 plus attorney's fees to woman agent who complained of sexually-oriented teasing, harassment, and ridicule that was not only condoned by and participated in by her supervisors. Anderson v. Reno, 97-0747, settlement rptd. at 38 (1887) G.E.R.R. (BNA) 1284 (N.D. Cal.); prior decis. at 190 F.3d 930, 1999 U.S. App. Lexis 21387, 80 FEP Cases (BNA) 1663 (9th Cir. 1999).
  • Two court employees accept $1 million to settle their sexual harassment lawsuit. The claimed they were routinely subjected to obscene sexual comments by male co-workers and supervisors and that nothing was done to correct the problem. Wayman v. San Bernardino Co, #273502, 37 (1842) G.E.R.R. (BNA) 1618. (Cal.Super. 1999).
  • Appellate court upholds a $3.5 million punitive award for sexual harassment, an amount 70 times greater than the compensatory damages. Weeks v. Baker & McKenzie, #A068499, 1998 Cal.App. Lexis 396, 76 FEP Cases (BNA) 1219. [1998 FP 93]
  • A California city has paid $900,000 to settle a sexual discrimination and harassment suit brought by a former Fire Dept. contract physician. Braun v. San Francisco, Cal.Super. #969799, 36 G.E.R.R. (BNA) #1757 (1998). [1998 FP 78]
  • California county was not required to pay a $2.2 million judgment awarded three women deputy sheriffs who were harassed in the workplace by a male deputy; county was not required to indemnify or defend the deputy as his acts were outside the scope of his employment. Farmers Insur. v. Co. of Santa Clara, 906 P.2d 440, 11 Cal.4th 992, 1995 Cal. Lexis 6796. [1996 FP 44-5]
  • County pays $200,000 to woman officer who claimed she was fondled by the chief; she was transferred after complaining about his conduct. Doe v. County of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Co. Super.Ct., 109 (9) L.A.D.J. (V&S) 3 (1995). [1996 FP 45]
  • Ex L.A.P.D. officer accepts $165,000 to settle her suit against the city. She alleged she was raped by a male officer at the police academy. Campbell v. City of Los Angeles, #BC 065939, 108 (16) L.A.D.J. (Verd. & Setlmts.) 3 (L.A. Co. Super. Ct. 1/24/95). [1995 FP 76]
  • Woman security officer accepts $1.5 million settlement for enduring sexual harassment by male officers. Doe v. Confidential Employer, 107 (193) L.A.D.J. (Verd. & Setlmts.) 6, L.A. Co., Cal. Super.Ct. Dept. 54 (1994). [1995 FP 28]
  • California city settles complaints of two women workers for $225,000. Doe and Roe v. City (I.D. Confidential, L.A. Co. Super.Ct. (7/9/94), summary in 107 (154) L.A.D.J. (Verd. & Setlmts.) 8 (8/12/94). [1995 FP 12]
  • Calif. Superior Court reduces a $6.9 million verdict to $3.5 million. Secretary proved a partner in a law firm sexually harassed her. Even with the reduction, it is the largest to-date verdict for workplace sexual harassment. Weeks v. Baker & McKenzie, 66 FEP Cases (BNA) 581 (Cal.Super. 1994).
  • California police dept. settles harassment and retaliation claim for $45,000. Woman officer complained that a superior "leered" at her breasts and discussed sex with her. Doe v. City of Chula Vista, San Diego Co., Cal., summary in 107 (57) L.A.D.J. (Verd. & Setlmts.) 3 (1994). [1994 FP 107]
  • California police dept. wins jury trial on sexual harassment complaint. Plaintiff demanded $80,000 to settle the suit and the city offered $15,000 which was rejected. Rehberg v. San Bernardino Unif. School Dist. Police Dept., San Bernardino Co., Cal. Super. Ct. #265035, 107 (42) L.A.D.J. (V&S) 3 (1994). [1994 FP 77]
  • Los Angeles pays $4.5 million to the family of a teenager molested by a uniformed officer. Doe v. Tanabe, summary in 28 (19) Bus. Insur. 4, L.A. Co., Cal. Super. Ct. 1994). [1994 FP 141]
  • Two of ten women Newport Beach, Cal., police officers who alleged sexual harassment settle their lawsuits for $113,000 and$62,500. The complaints purportedly induced the chief and a captain to prematurely retire, summary in L.A.Times 2/1/95.
  • Huntington Park (Calif.) woman police officer receives $187,500 to settle her sexual harassment lawsuit; three employees were removed, summary in L.A. Times 1/22/94.
  • Jury awards $3.1 million to two women police officers who were sexually harassed by male coworkers. Clerkin v. City of Long Beach; Allison v. City of Long Beach, U.S. Dist. Ct. (C.D. Cal. 1991), summary in L.A. Times 10/14/93. [1991 FP 170]
  • San Diego approves $90,000 settlement to woman police employee who's shirt was doused with water by an officer. Molina v. City of San Diego, Unrptd., City Council Mtg. 11/25/91. [1992 FP 27]
  • Female former sheriff's deputy receives $109,600 judgment plus $100,000 in legal fees for sexual touching. Stewart v. Co. of Sonoma, 634 F.Supp. 773 (N.D. Cal. 1986).
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