Filing a lawsuit for South Florida sexual assault in the workplace is a daunting prospect. Ultimately though, many plaintiffs find it provides vindication, justice, and much-deserved compensation for the physical pain and emotional trauma suffered in a place they had every right to expect safety.
A recent high-profile example of alleged sexual assault in the workplace made headlines recently. Singer, celebrity, and American Idol star Paula Abdul recently filed a lawsuit, alleging repeated incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment involving a television executive. Named defendants in the Superior Court of Los Angeles sexual assault lawsuit include the executive as well as several production and media companies that employed and/or contracted with both Abdul and the executive on two separate popular TV shows.
According to the complaint, Abdul contracted with the two hit entertainment competition shows, American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, which she worked on from 2002 to 2009. She alleged she was bullied, harassed, and unfairly compensated almost from the start of the show. Much of the harassment stemmed, she alleges, came from this one particular TV executive. This included verbal sexual harassment, but also sexual abuse, she says.
During one early season regional competition, she alleges the executive approached her when she was alone in an elevator, forced her against a wall, groped her, and shoved his tongue down her throat. She fled the elevator in tears and immediately called one of her reps. However, she ultimately decided to take no immediate action for fear of being “blackballed.”
A few years later, when she was in talks to contract on the second show, the executive invited her to his home for what he thought was a business meeting. The two talked about the show and their professional collaboration. However, toward the end of the evening, the executive reportedly forced himself on top of her while she was seated on the couch and tried to kiss her. She rejected him and immediately left. Again, she did not report this incident, fearing retaliation and ostracization in an industry known to protect powerful men. (Our Palm Beach sexual assault attorneys would note this points to just how powerful such fears can be, considering they impacted even an international superstar.)
In another incident, she says the same executive sexually assaulted her assistant, pressing up against her and groping her from behind in an unwanted advance.
In her sexual assault lawsuit, Abdul alleges that not only was the executive liable, but so too are the media and production companies, saying each is responsible in some manner for one or more of the events, either approving or ratifying the conduct of other defendants.
Statistics on Sexual Assault in the Workplace
Approximately 7 million women in the United States report being sexually assaulted by a work-related perpetrator at some point in their life. That’s nearly 6 percent, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. Roughly 1 million of those say they were victims of rape. Another 1 million were sexually coerced. Many were teens or young women at the time. A tiny percentage of those cases were ever reported to police.
Many survivors find themselves struggling not only physically and emotionally, but financially. Corporations have historically been more inclined to protect abusers, particularly if those individuals are powerful and profitable. That means victims who report these incidents risk potentially losing their jobs. Our Palm Beach sexual assault lawyers can help with a breakdown of their options for legal recourse.
Employers need not predict every possible incident between co-workers, bosses/subordinates, clients, caregivers, etc. However, here’s what is expected of them:
- Due diligence in the hiring process. This might vary depending on the position, but generally those with a history of violence or sexual crimes should be flagged. This is particularly true if they’ll be in a supervisory position or in close proximity to individuals who may be vulnerable.
- Adequate supervision and security. Again, that can look different depending on the workplace, but generally their workers need to be appropriately supervised and protected, especially if they are sometimes expected to navigate risky situations or circumstances. Their facilities and workplaces should be reasonably safe.
- Clear, written sexual harassment policies. Employees should have a clear idea of what to do and who to turn to if they are being harassed or hurt.
- Prompt intervention when harassment, assault, or abuse is reported. They cannot retaliate against workers for reporting sexual abuse or harassment.
These are just the bare minimum. Employers who fall legally short can be held accountable.
As for whether victims can directly sue the perpetrator: It depends. Insurers do not cover intentional wrongdoing or criminal acts. So the question is whether the defendant personally has assets sufficient enough to warrant direct legal action. In Abdul’s case, public reports indicate the TV executive’s personal net worth is somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 million – so it makes sense to take action against him directly. Whether it’s a good idea in your case is something you’ll have to carefully consider in conversations with your attorney.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
‘American Idol’ star Paula Abdul sues producer Nigel Lythgoe for sexual assault, Jan. 2, 2024, Reuters
More Blog Entries:
When an Employer is Liable for Florida Workplace Sexual Assault, Jan. 23, 2023, Palm Beach Florida Sexual Assault in the Workplace Blog