Employer Liable for Sexual Harassment of Contractor’s Employee

The California Court of Appeal held that a person providing services pursuant to a contract may recover against a company for its employee’s sexual harassment.

American Forensic Nurses, Inc. (AFN) contracted with San Diego County to supply workers to draw blood from suspects on an on-call basis. Hirst, an AFN employee, brought a claim under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) against the City of Oceanside claiming she was sexually harassed by an Oceanside police officer who was to provide protection to her while she drew blood a suspect’s blood. The employment contract specifically stated that AFN is an independent contractor, and that AFN employees are not employees of San Diego County. The City argued that Hirst’s claim was not allowed because she was not a city employee, special employee, or independent contractor.

However, the court held that Hirst had a valid claim because she was “a person providing services pursuant to a contract” under FEHA. Although FEHA is generally thought to provide protection only to employees of the company, the sections which address harassment are intentionally broader and prove that an employer may be held liable for its employee’s harassment of an “employee, an applicant, or a person providing services pursuant to a contract.”

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