Appeals court upholds decision in UC Berkeley sexual harassment case

By Takesha Thomas | Jul 27, 2018

California court ruled four of five plaintiffs claims have 'minimal merit.'

SAN FRANCISCO - A California appeals court will uphold a trial court's decision involving a former University of California at Berkeley professor accused of sexual harassment. 

The First District Court of Appeal ruled to uphold a trial court's decision involving Blake Wentworth, a former assistant professor of South and Southeast Asian Studies for the university, writing in part that,"the court’s ruling that four out of plaintiff’s five claims have at least minimal merit, we affirm." 

Wentworth filed a cross-appeal against several former students who claimed that he sexually harassed them during his tenure at the university. Wentworth was employed with the university from 2011 and 2016, when he was fired.  

The operative first amended complaint (FAC) filed by Wentworth alleges causes of action against defendants for defamation, false light publicity, abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and unfair business practices.

In February 2015, two students filed a complaint with the university's Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination claiming that Wentworth had made sexual advances towards them. In October 2015, OPHD determined that plaintiff did not sexually harass one of the students. 

However, "under a preponderance of the evidence", the office found that Wentworth, "had made an unwelcome “sexual advance” toward another which is, "in violation of UCB sexual harassment provisions," court documents state. 

Wentworth was suspended from teaching in March 2016, just one day before news articles made the matter public. But Wentworth argued that he was unfairly dismissed, after both the students and the attorney for the student held a public rally and agreed to several interviews with media outlets. Due to public pressure, Wentworth claimed that the university unfairly fired him. 

According to the lawsuit, Wentworth claimed that, "defendants committed abuse of process by abusing Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) procedures “as a pretext to defame [him], coerce UC to fire him, and extort financial gains.”

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First District Court of Appeal California University of California: Berkeley

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