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”.
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.
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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.