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Sex Harassment Measure Sent to Wilson

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Senate on Monday night approved and sent to Gov. Pete Wilson a controversial bill that would allow alleged victims of sexual harassment to sue their psychiatrist, banker, contractor or landlord for civil damages.

For the first time in California, the proposal would create a specific non-criminal cause of action against individuals who used their position of trust in a business or professional relationship to sexually harass clients or patients.

Carried by Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), the bill, endorsed by the Assembly last week, was approved on a 21-13 vote, the exact simple majority necessary.

Hayden said that while there are laws against sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere, no statute exists under which a victim can sue for damages suffered as a result of unwanted sexual advances that may occur in the course of professional and business relationships.

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The measure lists 20 categories of potential defendants in such suits, including physicians, psychotherapists, real estate agents, bankers, attorneys, family counselors, contractors and teachers.

Hayden said the bill was narrowly drawn. For example, the alleged victim would have to demonstrate that the sexual advances were unwelcome, persistent or severe and continued after a demand was made to stop them. The victim also would have to show that he or she suffered an economic loss or personal injury as a result of the harassment.

Under the bill, the plaintiff could sue to recover costs of such things as medical bills, lost income and disability resulting from the harassment. In addition, pain and suffering and punitive damages could be sought.


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