Radio station administrative employee claims sexual harassment by the same man who had harassed her at an earlier job.
- Case Name: Reyna Gonzalez v. Lazer Broadcasting Corporation
- Court and Case Number: Ventura Superior Court / 56-2018-00513652-CU-OE-VTA
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, June 01, 2023
- Date Action was Filed: Friday, June 15, 2018
- Type of Case: Employment, Labor Code Violation, Sexual Harassment
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Jeffrey G. Bennett
Plaintiffs: Reyna Gonzalez, 37
Defendants: Lazer Broadcasting Corporation
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $1,235,413.89
- Jury Deliberation Time: 1 1/2 days and 1 day for punitive damages (bifurcated trial)
- Jury Polls: 11-person jury by stipulation after losing 2 jurors. 10-1 on most causes of action.
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: JNOV and motion for new trial – denied on 8/23/23.
Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Levy Labor Law P.C. by Jeremy Levy, Woodland Hills.
Attorney for the Defendant:
Law Office of Gregory J. Ramirez by Gregory J. Ramirez, Ventura.
Facts and Background
Facts and Background:
Plaintiff was employed by Lazer Broadcasting Company as an office administrator, earning slightly above the minimum wage. Plaintiff always wanted to work in the Latinx radio market, and this was her second job in the industry. At her prior job, plaintiff reported sexual harassment by a man named Jorge Ayala, who was a friend of a radio DJ. Plaintiff alleged that Ayala would send her unwanted lewd messages on messenger about her appearance, the fit of her clothing, her breasts, and what he wanted to do to her in the bedroom. She told him to stop because she was married, but he laughed it off, and bragged to his friends that he would sleep with her. After complaining to her supervisor at her prior place of employment, Ayala was banned from coming by her workplace.
In late 2016, after two years working at Radio Lazer, plaintiff learned Mr. Ayala had applied for a position at Lazer in her office. She informed her supervisor, human resources and management of the prior sexual harassment, but they still hired Ayala to work at her office. In April of 2017, after continuing harassment from Ayala, plaintiff confronted him and reported it to HR. Plaintiff was disciplined for confronting Ayala and provided a write-up which stated: "Reyna has been instructed to refrain from addressing rumors in the workplace." A short time thereafter, plaintiff went on medical leave for severe anxiety and depression, and resigned from her job.
Plaintiff alleges that she faced sexual harassment from Ayala both in the Lazer workplace and prior to her time working at Radio Lazer. Plaintiff alleges that at all times relevant and prior to Ayala's hiring, human resources, her supervisor, and upper management, including the vice president, were made aware of Ayala's sexual harassment, and propensity to engage in sexual harassment. Despite this knowledge, defendant took no reasonable steps to prevent the harassment, and allowed Ayala to work in her office.
Plaintiff believes that Ayala could have been placed at any other office at Lazer's 40+ radio stations. Plaintiff alleges that defendant had a long history of ignoring harassment, which created a hostile work environment and was confirmed by another employee who reported sexual harassment and was ignored. Plaintiff claims that she felt ignored by human resources, and that they did not listen to her concerns.
Plaintiff confronted Ayala at work in April of 2017 about his continued harassment including telling people he would have sex with her. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff was contacted by HR and she told them about the ongoing harassment. HR gave plaintiff a discipline and a write-up, which stated "Reyna has been instructed to refrain from addressing rumors in the workplace," and if she continued, she could be subject to further discipline or termination. Ayala received no discipline or write-up whatsoever. Plaintiff refused to sign her write-up, stating it contained false statements that she wasn't harassed by Ayala.
A week after the confrontation in the workplace, plaintiff went to the doctor and was placed on medical leave for panic attacks, anxiety and depression. Plaintiff felt betrayed and unsafe in her workplace and terminated her employment after using her leave, sick, and vacation days. Plaintiff also was not paid all wages owed including overtime and missed meal break penalties, and her wage statements were incorrect.
Defendant contended that they hired Ayala because they could not find another qualified employee, and that plaintiff gave them permission to hire him in spite of her warnings of his sexual harassment. Defendant claims HR told plaintiff if she ever had a problem with Ayala, she should go to them.
Defendant claimed that plaintiff never complained of problems with anyone at work other than her supervisor and a coworker, not Ayala. Defendant claimed that they learned of the accusation of sexual harassment from Ayala, who complained that he felt embarrassed when plaintiff accused him of sexual harassment in the office in front of a coworker. Defendant claimed plaintiff received the write-up because they could not confirm plaintiff's allegations, and that plaintiff stated Ayala had not bothered her. Defendant stated plaintiff was written up because the allegation embarrassed Ayala and made the other coworker uncomfortable. Defendant stated they did not investigate the claims of sexual harassment any further because they did not want to further embarrass Ayala.
Finally, defendant claimed they were surprised when plaintiff left because she was a good worker, and that she had been paid accurately throughout her employment.
Injuries and Other Damages
Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Panic attacks, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, dry mouth, nose bleeds.
Emotional distress, anxiety, depression.
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $250,000
- Defendant §998 Offer: $25,000