BAKER & McKENZIE et al., Defendants and Appellants.

SUMMARY


 In a sexual harassment action brought by a legal secretary  against a partner in her former law firm and the firm itself,  under Gov. Code, 12940, subd. (h)(1), of the Fair  Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) (Gov. Code, 12900  et seq.), the jury found that the partner had sexually harassed  plaintiff, and the trial court entered judgment upon the jury's verdict. The jury awarded her $50,000 in compensatory damages from both the partner and the firm, and further awarded plaintiff $225,000 in punitive damages from the  partner and $6.9 million in punitive damages from the firm, reduced to $3.5 million by the trial court. The trial court awarded plaintiff $1,847,437.86 in attorney fees and  expenses. (Superior Court for the City and County of San Francisco, No. 943043, John E. Munter, Judge.)

The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. The court held that the evidence supported the jury's finding that the partner sexually harassed plaintiff, i.e., that his conduct unreasonably interfered with her work performance and/or created an  intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment, and  that, therefore, defendants were liable for compensatory damages. The court further held that the jury's award of  punitive damages directly against the firm was proper.  Plaintiff was not required to show that the firm itself was guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, i.e., the conduct authorizing liability for punitive damages under Civ. Code,  3294. Further, the firm's liability under Civ. Code, 3294, subd. (b), was not merely vicarious; thus, the award of  punitive damages assessed directly against the firm was not  limited to the amount assessed against the partner. In addition,  substantial evidence supported the jury's conclusion that the  firm itself engaged in conduct justifying an award of punitive damages against the firm. At the time plaintiff was hired, the firm and its relevant managing agents were well aware that the  partner was likely to create a hostile work environment for women, and the firm exhibited a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others by failing to take reasonable steps  to prevent the partner's *1129 misconduct. The court also held that the trial court properly admitted evidence of the partner's conduct towards other female employees occurring prior to plaintiff's employment. The court further held that the jury's award of punitive damages was not excessive. In addition, the court held that the trial court properly denied the firm's motion for a new trial on the basis of juror misconduct. Finally, the court held that, although Code Civ. Proc., 1021.5 (private attorney general statute), did not authorize an award of  attorney fees in an action such as this, brought by a single individual to redress her own economic injury, the trial court properly awarded attorney fees to plaintiff under Gov. Code,  12965, subd. (b). However, the trial court's enhancement of those fees was not supported by the factors it cited as justifying the use of a multiplier of 1.7. (Opinion by Stein, J., with Strankman, P. J., and Dossee, J., concurring.)