$177,000 Verdict for Sexual Coercion

In December 2005, plaintiff Cassandra King, 33, quit her job as an administrative assistant at Intra-Network Securities, Inc., a small securities firm in Rancho Santa Fe, claiming that her supervisor, Dennis Pearson, had sexually harassed her.  King had worked there since August.

King hired Attorney Gruenberg and sued Intra-Network Securities, Inc. and Pearson for sexual harassment.

King alleged that, shortly after she began work at the company, Pearson tried to engage in phone sex with her.  She said he also verbally harassed her at the office, speaking to her in an offensive and inappropriate manner.

King claimed that, as time passed, Pearson and she began having sex in the office at Pearson’s insistence, and that Pearson began withholding her pay and other benefits in exchange for these sexual favors.  She testified that she believed that if she did not submit to Pearson’s requests, she would be fired.  At the time, she had two small children at home to support.

Gruenberg contended at trial that Pearson used his power and authority to coerce her into having sex with him.  Pearson denied that the whole incident ever happened, and denied any inappropriate relationship with King.

At trial, King claimed to suffer emotional distress, humiliation, degradation and fear as a result of the experience.

King sought damages for her pain and suffering.

Result

Following a bench trial, Judge William Nevitt ruled in King’s favor, awarding her $177,000.  The court found that the defendants were joint and severally responsible for paying the award.