The chief of police for the Newport Beach Police Department is embroiled in a sexual harassment claim involving a former dispatcher, also the wife of a fired officer.
Our Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyers know that victims in these situations have often endured so much by the time they turn to the courts for justice. This case appears to be no different.
The victim's basic claim is that she was not only sexually harassed by the chief, but also discriminated against and then wrongfully terminated. The lawsuit names both the city and the police department, but the majority of the allegations are directed squarely at the chief.
The chief, city manager and city attorney all deny the claims made in the complaint, filed recently in the Orange County Superior Court, though such denials are boilerplate in the beginning stages of a sexual harassment case.
The former dispatcher says that she had worked with the city since 1990, going to part-time beginning in 2001.
Then in 2011, her husband, a police officer with the city, was fired. Prior to his termination, he had testified on behalf of a sergeant who had alleged mistreatment by both colleagues and superiors because the sergeant was gay. Prior to that testimony, the officer had been given great reviews, as well as a number of awards and commendations. Subsequent to his testimony, however, the officer was the subject of numerous internal investigations that he said were clearly retaliatory. His colleagues called him a traitor. After he was fired, he filed suit against the city last year, alleging retaliation and wrongful termination.
It was following his filing of a lawsuit that his wife says the chief began to harass her. In one instance, the chief reportedly called the dispatcher into his office to discuss her husband's conduct. One of the allegations that had been made against her husband involved improper use of city computers to view pornography while on duty - a charge her husband had denied. During that one-on-one closed-door session, the dispatcher says the chief sat within inches of her and attempted during that time to physically intimidate her.
In the months after that, she says there were a number of other occasions when the chief proceeded to harass her. In another encounter, he approached her dispatch console and again stood within inches of her and told her that he "really liked" her.
These actions understandably had her feeling intimidated and uncomfortable. She reported them to her supervisor, she says, but nothing was done.
Then one day, she handled a 911 call that she says was severely emotionally distressful. She asked for a few minutes to herself. The supervisor would later report that her conduct was "disruptive" to the rest of the staff.
Policy would have dictated that after such an incident she be directed to speak with a psychologist. However, that did not happen and several months later, it was on the basis of her actions that day that she says the department moved to fire her.
This case shows that sexual harassment need not include quid pro quo demands for sex or even necessarily physical touching. The events described here, however, could meet the criteria for the establishment of a hostile work environment.
Some other examples of sexual hostile work environment harassment are:
- Offensive remarks about body parts, clothing or looks;
- Touching in a manner that makes the employee uncomfortable;
- Telling sexual jokes, hanging lewd posters or making sexually-suggestive gestures;
- Forwarding sexually-explicit e-mails, notes or images.
Sexual harassment comes in many different forms. If you believe you may be a victim, do not hesitate to call us today to learn more about how we can help.
If you have been a victim of wrong-doing by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department or any other law enforcement department, contact The Okorocha Firm at 1-800-285-1763.
Ex-Newport Beach dispatcher claims sexual harassment by chief in suit, May 3, 2013, By Jill Cowan, Los Angeles Times
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