Los Angeles, CA- It appears as Lisa Vanderpump’s victory dance over the small settlement awarded to former waitress for Villa Blanca who claimed she was sexually harassed by the restaurant’s general manager was a bit premature. The “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star claimed vindication after the last week’s decision. Now she’s in shock after the Los Angeles jury handed down a $100K punitive settlement
Last Tuesday, a jury awarded Karen Bustillos $6,250 in damages after they found the restaurant acted in malice but exonerated Villa Blanca and manager Mike Govia of sexual harassment. This was seen as a victory from both sides. Soon after the decision Vanderpump tweeted, “Victory! It was principal manager of (Villa Blanca) vindicated by the jury unanimously on all charges…,” the Daily Mail reported.
Now, she’s not feeling very victorious now that the same jury decided to make her pay for creating a hostile work environment for some of her employees. Her attorneys told TMZ, “We are in absolute shock at the amount of punitive damages that were awarded.”
Vanderpump can afford the $100K settlement since her estimated worth is in the $65M range. But Villa Blanca’s accountant, Michael Velasquez testified that the restaurant only had $1.4 million in assets 2012. He claimed Bustillos’ sexual harassment suit caused business to drop off so the restaurant wasn’t raking it in.
Westworld Today reported that Bustillos’ attorney told the jury punitive damages would assure Villa Blanca’s current and future employees will not be subjected to harassment or discrimination.
Bustillos claimed Govia tried to kiss her and manhandled her when she asked him to change a $20 bill. She told management about his actions but they did nothing to correct his behavior, Bustillos alleged. After that, Bustillos said she was forced to quit.
Vanderpump and her team of attorneys plans to appeal the decision.
Punitive damages, though somewhat rare, are intended to punish an employer for allowing or fostering a climate where sexual harassment and workplace discrimination persist. The hope is that by paying a large settlement, owners of a business will make the effort to assure no employees are subjected to a hostile work environment.
A business or company can avoid suits like this by developing an effective policy that outlines what sexual harassment is and how an employee can report it. If a policy is already in place then it is crucial a business takes any complaint seriously whether they think it is legitimate or not. Should an investigation show a sexual harassment complaint is valid, then disciplining the harasser will prevent costly lawsuits and settlements.
Unfortunately, many businesses have such a casual attitude towards sexual harassment that the victims are have no other choice than to turn to a sexual harassment attorney for help when they’ve exercised all the options they have to put an end to their abuse.
A knowledgeable sexual harassment attorney is capable of attaining the compensation their clients are entitled to for enduring someone else’s inappropriate behavior.