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California police dept., city sued for sexual harassment response

No one should have to be subjected to harassment on the job and when a person works in a field that is predominantly filled with members of the opposite sex, sexual harassment is much more common than other workplaces. Take for example, three female California police officers who complained to superiors that a sergeant was sexually harassing them and instead of doing something about the harassment, the police department and its city manager instead retaliated against the officers.

At least that's the complaint in a lawsuit filed in San Louis Obispo County Superior Court against the city of Arroyo Grande and its police department. The lawsuit claims the city failed to follow due process in the city's Memorandum of Agreement with the police officers' union after it received the sexual harassment complaint. The union has also filed an accusation of retaliation against the city of its own in another matter.

The issue stems from a suit in 2011 which accused the police chief and a former commander of retaliating against her and two other female employees who had lodged complaints regarding a former sergeant sexually harassing them. The officer who filed the suit also filed a disciplinary appeal, which required binding arbitration according to the Memorandum of Agreement.

The latest lawsuit claims that the city's manager selected the person that would oversee the hearing and determine the final outcome, which was in violation of the MOA. The police officer's lawsuit is simply requesting the court to require the city to comply with its own MOA to enter into binding arbitration in the matter of her workplace retaliation claim. It is complicated indeed, but really very simple, she is asking the city to follow the terms in which it agreed to with the police union.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a pernicious problem and when an employee requests something be done about it, he or she should expect his or her employer to protect the employee's rights to a work environment free of harassment. When an employer instead responds with retaliation, additional laws are broken and the employee's rights are further violated. In such a case, an employee may wish to consult with an experienced employment law attorney to determine what steps he or she can take to right the wrongs, not unlike what the female police officer did in this story.

Source: Cal Coast News, "Officers lodge two claims of retaliation against Arroyo Grande," Jan. 7, 2013

Our California law firm handles similar employment law issues such as the sexual harassment and workplace retaliation claims discussed in the above post.

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