A Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded more than $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages Monday to a man who said he was the victim of unwanted sexual advances from his male supervisor.
Frank Christian, 32, a former maintenance mechanic at J & J Snacks in Vernon, said he was hired in January 1993 and was immediately the target of sexual harassment from his boss, Pedro Gutierrez. Christian said Gutierrez would often grope him and use explicit language suggesting lewd sexual acts, advances he said continued for nearly two years despite his complaints to upper management.
Christian, who is married and has five children, said he remained with the company for two years because of the pay--$13.50 an hour--and full benefits that the job offered. He said he left in 1995 after suffering a nervous breakdown.
"I felt this case will send a strong message to the corporate world that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in any form, whether it be male or female," said Floyd Turner, one of the jurors in the case.
Carla Feldman, the attorney for J & J Snacks, called the verdict outrageous and said the company plans to appeal. An attorney for Gutierrez could not be reached for comment.