SCE manager sexually harassed female employee and others for years. $1.58 million total arb award.


JAMS arbitrator makes $225,000 award against SCE for gender discrimination, harassment and hostile work environment plus $4,000 in sanctions and $42,345 in costs to plaintiff. $1.289 million in attorneys fees and costs using lodestar multiplier of 1.2. 


The Case

  • Case Name: Justine Vargas v. Southern California Edison Company, Rudolpho Rodriguez, et al.
  • Court and Case Number: JAMS Case No. 1240024393
  • Date of Arbitration Award : Saturday, December 02, 2023
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, October 22, 2020
  • Type of Case: Sexual Harassment
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Melinda A. Johnson, Ret.
  • Plaintiffs:
    Justine Vargas
  • Defendants:
    Southern California Edison Company
  • Type of Result: Arbitration Award

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $231,164
  • Net Verdict or Award: $1,580,000 including fees, costs, sanctions and interest. Claim for punitive damages denied.
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    $1,580,000 (incl. interest) as to respondent Southern California Edison. Arbitrator awarded $225,000 against Southern California Edison for gender discrimination, harassment and hostile work environment plus plus $4,000 in sanctions and $42,345 in costs to plaintiff. $1.289 million in attorneys fees and attorney costs using lodestar multiplier of 1.2. 

    Claim for punitive damages against SCE denied.


  • Non-Economic Damages:


  • Punitive Damages:


  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 13 days. March 14 - Dec. 15, 2022.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Post-arbitration briefing; claimant's motion for attorneys' fees; claimant's motion for sanctions; claimant's memorandum of costs.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Office of John W Dalton by John Dalton, Solana Beach.

    Law Office of Jason L Oliver by Jason Oliver, Pasadena.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Southern California Edison Company by Antoinette Tutt and Tanya Guzman, Rosemead.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Claimant Justine Vargas was a customer service rep for SCE for about two years starting in 2014. Defendant Rodriguez worked in the same location at that time. On July 1, 2019 she again went to work at SCE as a "contingent worker" in the OCR department employed by an employment contractor, Allsource. She was provided with certain web-based harassment training. Her SCE supervisor was Project Manager Roldolpho Rodriguez. She claimed to begin experiencing sexual harassment by Rodriguez soon thereafter but did not immediately report it; in fact, she first reported it in December 2019 after another employee had complained against Rodriguez. Claimant also claimed to see him sexually harass other female employees. 

    On December 2, 2019 SCE officers were notified of the claims against Rodriguez. SCE investigators confirmed the validity of the claims as early as December 12, 2019. Rodriguez was later found to have sexually harassed Vargas, as well as four other female employees, according to SCE's own investigation. Some of the sexual harassment went back for years.

    Claimant quit on December 10, 2019.

    Ultimately, defendant Rodriguez's employment was not terminated; he was allowed to retire.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the SCE project manager, Ruldolpho Rodriguez, was claimant Justine Vargas's supervisor and sexually harassed her on several occasions. That respondent Southern California Edison Company failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent the sexual harassment from occurring.

    That some of Rodriguez's conduct towards Vargas included making comments about her body, placing his face against her sweater in the area of her shoulder and collar bone and sniffing her, touching her back and shoulders, and making sexist comments. Claimant also witnessed Rodriguez sexually harass another female employee on many occasions, which added to her hostile work environment.

    That some of this conduct towards claimant occurred after complaints had been made by another employee about Rodriguez's sexual harassment to an SCE helpline and to an SCE senior supervisor. SCE's failure to stop Rodriguez's sexual harassment was negligent, concerning and complacent, which worked to the detriment of SCE's employees.

    That Rodriguez's conduct at SCE went back five years and that he had bragged about failing his sexual harassment training twice.

    That despite SCE's claims that Rodriguez was not her supervisor, none of the words and actions of Rodriguez's superiors would lead plaintiff to believe anything other than that Rodriguez was her superior.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That Mr. Rodriguez was a "non-management" employee; that he was not plaintiff's superior on a corporate organizational chart. That he lacked authority to hire/fire, promote/demote or grant overtime.

    That the sexual harassment did not occur, or at a minimum, was exaggerated by Vargas and others. That claimant Vargas was not damaged by the sexual harassment that was perpetrated on her.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Emotional distress and resultant physical symptoms of the distress. Plaintiff claimed humiliation, nervousness, anxiety, sleeplessness, back pain, headaches, eczema, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem. Some of these symptoms lasted for months after Vargas's employment ended.

Additional Notes

There was a mediation early in the case, after which, the mediator made a mediator's proposal, which Vargas accepted. However, Edison did not accept the mediator's proposal, which was a proposal that was in the low six figures. 

There were no 998 offers, and Edison did not make any other meaningful offer in the case.