Appeals Court Absolves Insurer After Women Forced to Undress for Evidence of Period

     (CN) – Accused of checking the underwear of female employees for period blood, a cosmetics company cannot demand coverage from its insurer, a California Court of Appeals ruled.
     Jon Davler Inc. faces a sexual harassment and invasion of privacy action in Los Angeles from three female employees who say that their supervisor, Christina Yang, was upset one morning when she found a used sanitary napkin near a toilet at work and blood around the toilet seat.
     “The employees alleged that Yang was so upset that she went to the department where they were working ‘and started yelling that they were ‘dirty’ and demanded to know who was on their menstrual period so that she could determine who had left the used sanitary napkin by the toilet and the toilet unclean,'” the ruling published Monday summarizes.
     Yang, who is also named as a defendant, then allegedly yelled in an angry voice, “Are you on your period?”
     Not satisfied when the employees all denied that they were menstruating, Yang “instructed another female employee, against her will, ‘to take each of [the employees] into the bathroom, one by one, and check their panties to see who was on their menstrual period, by requiring each to pull down their pants and underwear for inspection,'” the recap states.
     The employees said Yang told them they would be fired if they refused to participate in the inspection. She then lined the employees up outside the bathroom to await inspection, the employees said.
     “While a male supervisor waited with Yang outside the bathroom door, the designated female employee went into the bathroom with each employee, ‘stood a foot or two away’ while the employees ‘had to pull down their pants and their panties, exposing their vaginal area, so that [the employee] could see if they were wearing a sanitary napkin and therefore on their period,” the court’s recap of the complaint continues.
     When the employees came out of the bathroom, they were allegedly embarrassed to look at Yang and the male supervisor, and quickly went back to their work area while the rest of the employees were inspected.
     Alleging false imprisonment, the employees say they “were wrongfully detained and confined by [Jon Davler and Yang] in the bathroom for the purpose of conducting a humiliating and wrongful inspection of their vaginal area to determine if they were on their menstrual period.”
     Jon Davler tendered the action to its insurer, but Arch Insurance Co. denied coverage based on an employment-related practices exclusion in the policy.
     A three-judge panel with 2nd Appellate District affirmed Monday that the insurance company that it does not owe coverage to the company, despite Jon Davler’s argument that the false imprisonment claim is not employment-related.
     “False imprisonment shares general similitude with several of the matters specifically enumerated in the employment-related practices exclusion, such as coercion, discipline, and harassment,” Judge John Segal wrote for the court.
     Furthermore, the employees’ injuries caused by the alleged false imprisonment arose out of their employment, since they were following a directive from a supervisor at their place of employment and were told they would lose their jobs if they did not comply with the inspection demand.
     “And there was nothing in the allegations of the complaint in the underlying action suggesting that there was any relationship between Jon Davler and the employees subject to the inspection other than the employer-employee relationship. Indeed, cases involving strip searches of employees have held that the employment-related practices exclusion applies to bar coverage,” Segal wrote.

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