Fighting for Women's Equality

A 10 Year Battle Against Rape in the Workplace

December 9, 2015 | by

There are some moments that are too horrifying to forget. For Maria Bojorquez, one such moment happened on October 4, 2004, when she was brutally raped by her supervisor as she worked alone on the night shift, cleaning the San Francisco Ferry Building. Her suffering didn’t stop there, either – when Maria reported the assault and prior sexual harassment to her employer, she faced retaliation and ultimately lost her job. It was then that she came to Equal Rights Advocates for help, and to eventually file a lawsuit.

Now, more than 10 years after taking that first step to vindicate her right to work free of violence and three years after a San Francisco jury awarded her an $812,001 verdict, Maria has a new moment to remember – the settlement of her case against her former employer, ABM Industries.

The case was resolved to the mutual satisfaction of both parties and resulted in a settlement which will benefit countless current and future ABM employees; under the settlement, the company has agreed to implement a thorough process of review for investigations involving allegations of rape or attempted rape in the workplace made by any female janitorial worker in California.

“Maria’s courage in speaking out against rape in the workplace is inspirational. Her bravery has greatly aided the fight to ensure that no worker, regardless of income or status, has to endure sexual violence in order to earn a paycheck. It has been an honor to represent her,” said ERA Legal Director Jennifer Reisch.

The lengthy legal battle that culminated in this settlement began when Maria enlisted ERA’s help to file her initial charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2005. ERA continued to represent Maria throughout the litigation, taking her case to trial in 2012 with co-counsel Virginia Villegas of Villegas Carrera, LLP and, after winning on all claims, defending her verdict on appeal with co-counsel Monique Olivier of Duckworth Peters Lebowitz Olivier, LLP.

As Maria said in a 2014 video chronicling her case:

“After the trial, I’m always reminding my daughters, my friends, my sisters not to let people treat them this way. That if something happens to them at school or at work, to not stay silent. Because it’s very painful to stay silent.”

Maria’s story is also featured prominently in the Frontline documentary, Rape on the Night Shift, which premiered at a special community event in San Francisco on December 9, 2015.

Equal Rights Advocates is a national civil rights organization dedicated to protecting and expanding economic and educational access and opportunities for women and girls. If you have questions or would like more information about your rights at work, visit our Get Legal Help page here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email