No one can deny the intoxicating allure of business woman, philanthropist and trend setter Lisa Vanderpump of Bravo fame. Wife to Ken Todd, mother to Pandora & Max, star of two top rated shows, and co owner of two successful restaurants, Villa Blanca and Sur, Lisa has plenty on her silver platter.
With fame comes controversy and Lisa handles same with the same grace that she handles all else in her hectic beautiful life. In October 2012, a former waitress from Villa Blanca sued the restaurant, the shift manager Michael Govia, and the owners Lisa and Ken, for $5 million dollars claiming Govia sexually harassed her. The waitress alleged that when she complained, nothing was done to correct the situation. Furthermore, the waitress alleged she was forced to quit because conditions became intolerable.
Specifically, the waitress alleged the following:
- Govia attempted to kiss the waitress. She informed him that his behavior was inappropriate;
- After the waitress complained to the general manager (who was not named in the lawsuit), Govia allegedly called her a bitch and a cunt for complaining;
- Several months later, Govia grabbed and twisted the waitress’ wrists while arguing over change for $20 and the shift’s money;
- Govia told the waitress to “check your schedule next time” which she interpreted as meaning he was threatening to suspend her or remove her from lucrative shifts;
- The waitress was allegedly assigned to less lucrative shifts to avoid working with Govia thus causing her to earn less in tips;
- Villa Blanca allegedly refused to take any corrective action and thus the waitress was forced to quit because of the “intolerable working conditions caused by the harassment and discrimination to which [the waitress] was subjected, the retaliation to which [the waitress] was subjected to for complaining, and Villa Blanca’s refusal to take any corrective action to investigate or end the harassment and discrimination.”
A month after leaving her job at Villa Blanca, the former waitress sued for assault, sexual battery (improper and unwarranted touching), sexual harassment, gender violence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful termination. She sought $5 million dollars in damages.
On June 12, 2014, a jury awarded the former waitress a nominal amount of $6,250 against Villa Blanca but exonerated Govia from any liability as her harasser. Such a nominal award is a victory for Villa Blanca since (1) in all probability the waitress was offered at least $10,000 to resolve the case and avoid costs associated with bringing the case to trial; and (2) the nominal amount will probably be paid by Villa Blanca’s insurance company.
Interesting to note, the Judge concluded that neither Lisa, nor Ken will have to contribute to the $6,250 award since Villa Blanca (thru it’s insurance company) is fully capable of paying the nominal amount.
The only wrinkle left to be resolved was the jury found that Villa Blanca acted “with malice” thus subjecting the restaurant to a punitive damages phase. Earlier today, the waitress was awarded $100,000 in punitive damages. Again, a nominal award considering punitive damages are awarded based upon a Defendant’s worth – and Villa Blanca is worth millions.
Villa Blanca has vowed to appeal the decision since the punitive award contradicts the jury’s verdict which exonerated the alleged harasser Govia. Stay tuned to see how this real life court room drama plays out.