News Details

Manning & Kass Wins Defense Verdict for ABM in Employment Case

August, 2015

Manning & Kass partners John M. Cowden of the Orange County office and Madonna A. Herman of the San Francisco office obtained a defense verdict in a contentious trial for defendant ABM. ABM provides facility solutions such as facilities engineering, commercial cleaning, energy solutions, HVAC, electrical, landscaping, parking and security.

The plaintiff, who worked as a night-shift janitor, claimed she was sexually assaulted by the lead janitor while alone in a restroom of a client’s building which she was assigned to clean in August 2009. She identified a co-worker as her purported principal witness. In addition to sexual harassment and hostile work environment, plaintiff alleged related theories of recovery, including gender violence, sexual battery, and failure to investigate.

The defendants denied plaintiff’s contentions and asserted that plaintiff and her witness concocted plaintiff’s claims of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

On defendants’ motion, the trial was “trifurcated” to determine first whether the “bathroom incident” had actually occurred. All parties agreed that if it hadn’t occurred, then none of plaintiff’s other issues or causes of action had merit. As detailed in its Statement of Decision, the court found that plaintiff “deliberately testified untruthfully” about the bathroom incident, did not believe any of plaintiff’s testimony and found the principal witness “simply not credible.”  Accordingly, there was no basis to try plaintiff’s other theories of recovery.

As for plaintiff’s attempt to present certain “me too” evidence, the court held plaintiff can only suffer from a hostile work environment if she is aware it is hostile. Plaintiff failed to present any evidence in this regard despite the opportunity to do so. Plaintiff had originally demanded $2.5 million, but withdrew the demand shortly before trial.

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