Carney R. Shegerian, founder of Shegerian & Associates, a Santa Monica-based law firm specializing in employee rights, has issued a statement aimed at all employees in light of current news coverage of David Letterman and his on-air admission of affairs with employees over the years. Shegerian warns that office trysts, in California, at least, can lead to litigious scenarios due to workplace environments that are unfair and potentially exploitative.
“Because of Mr. Letterman’s case being in the news now, there is much talk about sexual harassment and employees being coerced into intimate relationships by their employers,” said Shegerian. “While this certainly is a valid concern, one issue that seems to not be discussed as much is paramour sexual harassment.”
“Unlike in most other states,” Shegerian explained, “California recognizes what is called ‘paramour sexual harassment.’ The law states that when employees who sleep with the boss/manager/supervisor gain any preferential treatment over other employees in pay, benefits, promotion, non-demotion, and other preferential treatments, etc. the other employees are being treated unfairly and have a claim for what California law calls paramour sexual harassment.”
David Letterman is certainly not the first workplace boss to engage in a tryst with an employee. Approximately 40 percent of American workers have had a workplace romance, according to a study by recruiting firm Spherion Corp. last year.
“It is certainly common and often consensual,” said Shegerian, “but the most important thing to remember is that the people involved in the relationship as well as the other employees surrounding them are all protected by laws that prohibit unfairness in the workplace. Many workers are not even aware of ‘paramour sexual harassment’ laws, but they have far-reaching impact on workplace rights — and at the end of the day, it’s critically important that we preserve fairness and equality in the workplace at all levels.”
As an experienced trial attorney, Carney has tried numerous jury trials in both state and federal court, always representing individuals that have suffered financial or emotional losses and have been wronged by employers, including major corporations.