The California Supreme Court, in a case of first impression, has ruled that sexual harassment under a state civil code statute governing conduct in business relationships should be defined using the same “pervasive” or “severe” standard established under case law for sexual harassment in the workplace.

“For that particular statute there has been no case law interpreting or defining what the standards or definitions of sexual harassment are,” said Melanie Ross, a partner at Los Angeles-based Knee, Ross & Silverman, who represented Christopher Pair, the defendant in the case. “The first main question, which was of first impression, was: Should we use all the case law and standards developed in employment law to define sexual harassment in this statute? The answer to that was yes.”