California Supreme Court Overturns Ruling In Sexual Harassment Case

July 19, 2005 ( - A lower court ruling was overturned for two former employees at the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, California who complained they were denied equal treatment by the former warden because they were not sexually involved with him.

The lower court ruled in favor of the former warden who was sexually active with three other women at the same time, according to the Associated Press. The warden retired in 1998 after an internal affairs investigation. The two women sued the state’s Department of Corrections in 1999.

While the lower court ruled against the women because they were not subject to sexual advances and not treated any different than male employees, the state’s Supreme Court found that widespread favoritism in which “the demeaning message is conveyed to female employees that they are viewed by management as ‘sexual playthings’ or that the way required for women to get ahead in the workplace is by engaging in sexual conduct” constitutes harassment, according to the AP.

Phil Horowitz of the California Employment Lawyers Association called the decision “groundbreaking” saying, “It’s the first major decision saying women can sue if they are treated worse because they’re not the paramour of the supervisor.”