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E mployers are strictly liable under California law for sexual harassment by supervisors, the 3rd U.S. District Court of Appeal ruled Thursday.

In a unanimous decision, the court said a federal defense available to employers that take steps to address harassment claims does not apply in California cases.

The decision in Department of Health Services v. The Superior Court of Sacramento County (McGinnis) 01 C.D.O.S. 9999 is significant because it establishes for the first time that there’s a difference between federal law and California law in terms of employer liability, said San Mateo attorney William Quackenbush, who represented plaintiff Theresa McGinnis.

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