Lewis v. City of Benicia, 224 Cal. App. 4th 1519 (2014)

Brian Lewis, a heterosexual man, sued his former employer (the City of Benecia) and two former male supervisors for sexual harassment and the City for retaliation. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the supervisors (Steve Hickman and Rick Lantrip) and judgment on the pleadings for the City. A jury found in favor of the City on the retaliation claim. The Court of Appeal reversed all of the lower court’s rulings except the summary judgment that was granted in favor of Lantrip. As for Hickman, the Court found that the alleged course of conduct allowed an inference that he was pursuing a romantic relationship with Lewis and that the frequency and regularity of the alleged conduct allowed an inference of a pervasive pattern of conduct rather than a few isolated acts. As for Lantrip’s alleged conduct, the Court held there was no basis for a reasonable trier of fact to conclude Lantrip harassed Lewis on the basis of sex or subjected Lewis to a pervasive pattern of harassing conduct (by displaying pornographic images on his computer two or three times and telling “obscene jokes”). As for the retaliation claim against the City, the Court held the trial court erred by excluding evidence of Hickman’s alleged sexual harassment and of a psychologist’s expert testimony about emotional distress allegedly suffered by Lewis.