The City of San Diego approved the use of a $250,000 disbursement for a sexual harassment case against former mayor Bob Filner on Feb. 10. The ex mayor’s former communications director agreed to the settlement on Feb. 7. If the two parties hadn’t settled, they would have had to go to court in February 2015. The city employee claimed that the former mayor used sexually explicit language and tried to initiate sexual conduct while she worked for him. Two other women filed pending sexual harassment suits against the ex-mayor, who resigned in Aug. 2013 after almost nine months in office.
Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, the promise of benefits or promotions in exchange for sex, unwanted advances or touches, sexual gestures, jokes, sexual content such as cartoons or posters with sexually explicit images, suggestive notes or sexual texts can constitute sexual harassment. In California, employers can be held liable if they didn’t take steps to discourage sexual harassment, such as having a prevention program in place or not taking disciplinary action against an employee or supervisor accused of sexual harassment.
Under California law, employees have up to a year after an incident to file a sexual harassment claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. If the organization finds evidence of harassment, it can either try to get a settlement from the employer, hold a hearing against the employer and accused individual or bring a civil lawsuit against the company. If the lawsuit goes to court, judges have the power to decide on the amount of damages awarded.
Source: California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, “Fair Employment and Housing-Sexual Harrassment,” 2010
Source: CBS 8, “City approves $250K settlement in Filner lawsuit“, Richard Allyn, February 10, 2014