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Sexual Harassment and Workplace Bullying–Both California Labor Law Violations--Results in $2.6M Verdict

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A heterosexual man, harassed and bullied with homosexual slurs for several years by a fellow truck driver, is awarded $2.6 million.

Santa Cruz, CAA Santa Cruz County Superior Court jury, after a one-month trial, awarded $2.6 million to a truck driver who was sexually harassed. Of that amount, Beverly Fabrics was ordered to pay $1.1 million punitive damages for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation and failure to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation, according to court documents. Cole Hudson filed the California labor lawsuit after several years of harassment and bullying—with sexual innuendos— by a fellow truck driver.

Hudson, a heterosexual man and married with four children, resigned from Beverly Fabrics, Inc. after tolerating five years of verbal abuse by fellow trucker Dan Rangle, who also repeatedly lied to new and experienced employees about Hudson’s sexuality, which further spread the harassment: For instance, co-workers often questioned Cole, prompted by what Rangle had told them, about whether he had been involved with male prostitutes.

Rangle’s harassment escalated and became physical. According to the Mercury News (Mar 8, 2018), Rangle put Hudson in a head lock while trying to act as if he was going to kiss him and, on another occasion, Rangle brushed the back of his hands against Hudson’s buttocks.

Harassment Complaints Not Addressed

Hudson reported Rangle’s behavior to Beverly Fabrics supervisors, but his complaints fell on deaf ears. According to court documents, one supervisor said there was no way to change Rangle, who was hired in 2007 and was finally “laid off” in July, 2013. Hudson resigned in 2013.

According to his attorney Elizabeth Peck, Hudson was subjected to retaliation by the company for having made his complaint. Beverly Fabrics retaliated against Hudson by imposing “additional conditions” on a route that he had to take over from Rangle, and he had to drive Rangle’s truck.

Beverly Fabrics contended that Hudson didn’t report Rangle’s conduct for several years, but once aware of such conduct, “it promptly terminated the harassing coworker,” and phrased the termination as a “layoff” at plaintiff’s request, and to protect him, according to court documents. Further, the company stated that “its assignment of an additional overnight trucking route to plaintiff, and its assignment of coworker’s truck to plaintiff when the coworker was laid off, were done for legitimate business reasons”.

Punitive Damages

Of the $2.6 million awarded by the Santa Cruz jury, $1.1 million are allocated as punitive. (Punitive damages are rare and only issued when conduct is grossly negligent or intentional. A U.S. Justice Department report found only five percent of trials, in which plaintiffs prevail, result in punitive damages awarded.)

Peck filed Hudson’s California labor law complaint in Santa Cruz County Superior Court almost three years ago. In the complaint, Peck said this case (Hudson v. Beverly Fabrics, Inc. Santa Cruz Superior Court / CV182035.), is a rarity for having sexual harassment between two heterosexual men. But it was more about bullying with sexual innuendo.

Bullying a California Labor Law Violation

Unwanted sexual advances, and physical, verbal or visual sexual conduct constitutes sexual harassment, according to California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. And the most common type of complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involves retaliation, where an employer harasses or bullies an employee for objecting to some form of illegal discrimination.
Studies have proven that bullying can lead to stress, and that in turn harms both the physical and mental health of employees. While some studies show that workplace bullying affects nearly half of the US work force, it is most often unreported and unresolved because employees are afraid of retaliation by bullies and afraid of losing their jobs.

According to court documents, Hudson was unable to find comparable employment after his resignation. Peck said that Hudson has been “through the wringer and back” and has been “incredibly courageous” to withstand trial and pretrial proceedings.

If you are being harassed and/or bullied at work, especially if your health is suffering, you might want to consider contacting an experienced employment attorney who can determine whether the situation in your workplace would justify filing a complaint.


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Posted by

I'm really glad the employee prevailed in this case. I do NOT however believe for even a second that the state cares about this issue. I was a state worker for 10 years being bullied daily, systematically, transferred, sent to unnecessary trainings, had my checks cut short, my days off changed, my life became unmanageable and after I reported an administrators wife at napa state hospital for illegally drugging the patients without doctors orders and with medications that should have been destroyed per policy but were not, the administration abused it's power and authority to send the campus hospital police to my home with a search warrant on some phony premace to find anything they could use against me. They had me jailed for 4 months while I fought a bogus "pipe bomb" charge, claiming the ammo container for my shark gun, plastic pvc, was a bomb....knowing full well there was no fuse, no shrapnel, no gunpowder, no "detonation" device, nothing but a container for ammo. They fired me after claiming that I was "awol" from the job knowing exactly were I was because they put me there. I couldn't find an attorney with a sack to nail them so I just ate the discrimination, and the loss of my job, and the loss of my freedom, and the smearing of my name, and the so called protections for whistleblowers all just disappeared. I'm glad things worked out for this person, but the administrators who did this to me were a gay female couple. They are patient abusers. They are liars. They have abused their authority and sent an innocent man to jail to cover themselves and I have ZERO faith in this corrupted and disgusting system of supposed law any longer. Nuff said.


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