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Bryant Whitten, LLP

California woman claims sexual harassment by city councilman

Another California city is facing allegations of impropriety by an elected official. With San Diego still reeling from allegations of its mayor's sexual misconduct, the City of Los Angeles is coming under fire for the alleged conduct of city councilman Jose Huizar. Huizar's former deputy chief of staff filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing claiming that she experienced discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation because she refused Huizar's sexual advances.

The complainant worked for Huizar from March 2006 until earlier this year. She claims that after she refused to engage in sexual activities with him, she was denied a promotion, was sabotaged in her efforts to run for public office, and ultimately was forced to quit or transfer to a new position. On April 21, the complainant transferred to a new position with the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation. She filed her complaint on June 7. Councilman Huizar has denied the allegations of the complaint and pledged his cooperation with the city's efforts to investigate.

Since the complaint was filed, the city has convened a Special Committee on Investigative Oversight. While city officials won't discuss the details, the sole purpose of the five-member independent panel is to investigate allegations of misconduct made against elected city officials. The panel was created in 1996 to investigate a sexual harassment case against another city councilman and has been assembled on only four occasions since then.

Sex discrimination and sexual harassment are illegal under both California and federal law. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile work environment, such as unwanted advances, sexual jokes, sexual contact and sexually explicit images in the workplace. The law also prohibits retaliation against someone who complains about harassment or discrimination. A knowledgeable employment law attorney may be able to help an employee whose work is impacted by sexual harassment by determining whether the they have a viable claim.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Councilman Jose Huizar hit by employee discrimination complaint", David Zahniser, August 12, 2013

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