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Saleswoman Who Lost Job After Complaining Awarded $100,000

August 18, 1988

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The state Fair Employment Commission awarded more than $100,000 to a former Silicon Valley saleswoman who accused her boss of making crude sexual jokes and forcing her off the job when she complained.

The Fair Employment Commission, in a unanimous decision, ruled that Sigma Circuits Inc. of Santa Clara and sales manager Charles Dimick were guilty of sexual harassment of Linda Schultz, a saleswoman from January 1983 to August 1985.

″Language, humor and related activities that may be acceptable in the locker room do not belong in the workplace,″ the commission said.

Schultz claimed that Dimick continually made crude sexual jokes, laughed when she complained and forced her off the job, leaving her, a single mother, without work for four months.

″This shows what can happen if employers allow this kind of childish behavior to continue in the workplace,″ Jim Ryden, an attorney for Ms. Schultz, said Wednesday.

The supervisor’s conduct made the work environment ″offensive, oppressive, hostile and intimidating,″ said the commission, which also said the company was legally responsible for harassment by a supervisor.

Monday’s ruling also rejected claims that Dimick’s comments were protected by freedom of speech or were a legitimate attempt to keep the workplace atmosphere loose and friendly.

Ernest Pinza, lawyer for the electronics company, declined comment, and James Thompson, Dimick’s lawyer, did not return telephone calls. The ruling can be appealed in Superior Court.

According to the commission, Dimick regularly used profanity in the office, told lewd jokes and made other comments that offended Schultz, including telling her and other employees to ″get under my desk″ or ″get down on your knees″ when they asked for price quotations.

After Schultz complained, Dimick told her in August 1985 that it would be better if she found another job, according to the commission. Schultz considered herself fired, went home and appealed the next day to the company president, who accepted Dimick’s version of the events and denied Schultz severance benefits.

The company denied Schultz had been fired, but the commission said even if she quit, the legal effect was the same because ″Dimick’s sexual harassment made her working conditions so oppressive and intolerable that she was forced to quit.″

Damages, which were to be paid jointly by the company and Dimick, include $36,000 in lost wages, back pay and $25,000 for emotional distress. With interest, the total award will exceed $100,000, said Ryden, a lawyer with the Fair Employment and Housing Department.