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  • Less than a month before the movie “The Predator” was released, actress Olivia Munn learned that fellow actor Steven Wilder Striegel was a registered sex offender. She reported the information to the studio, and in response the studio pulled the scenes involving the actor. But, it turns out that The Predator’s director Shane Black was friends with Striegel and knew of his status as a registered sex offender before casting him in the movie. He never told Munn or anyone else involved in the production. And while the scene was cut, Munn has felt ostracism from her peers since she made her report.

    This situation raises interesting questions about employers’ obligations to protect other employees and prevent sexual harassment. Below, I discuss some of the key laws that apply.

    The Fair Employment and Housing Act Creates a Duty to Prevent Workplace Harassment

    The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Government Code § 12940, prohibits workplace sexual harassment and other forms of harassment and discrimination based on protected categories. An employer is strictly liable for sexual harassment by a supervisor. It is also liable for harassment by coworkers, subordinates, and even nonemployees if it knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. An employer is also separately liable for failing to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring.

    This means that an employer faces significant exposure under the FEHA if it knowingly employs a sexual harasser or sex offender and fails to take actions to protect its other employees from sexual harassment by that person.

    Megan’s Law Establishes a Sex Offender Registry, But Limits the Use of Such Information in Employment To Protecting Persons at Risk

    California’s Megan’s Law, Penal Code § 290.46, requires the California Department of Justice to maintain a website that identifies individuals convicted of specific sex offenses. The Megan’s Law Website includes the following information about the sex offenders listed in the registry: their name and known aliases, a photograph, a physical description, including gender and race, date of birth, criminal history, prior adjudication as a sexually violent predator, the address at which the person resides, and any other information that the Department of Justice deems relevant. Crimes that trigger a listing in the registry include: rape, sexual battery, sexual trafficking of minors, and sex crimes involving children. Certain sex offenders may apply to have their information removed from the website…

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