Educational institutions that receive federal funding – including colleges and universities – are bound by federal mandate (specifically, Title IX) to both report incidents of sexual violence and to track patterns of sexual assault, sexual misconduct and other behaviors that may result in a hostile working or educational environment for women – which impacts not only their physical safety and mental/ emotional health, but frequently their financial status and career prospects.
Yet our L.A. sexual harassment attorneys have women on campus victimized time and again – students, adjunct professors, graduate assistants, tenured professors, deans. Universities not only fail to protect them, but in some cases further victimize them with poor policy and failure to follow the law, spurring more than a few California Title IX lawsuits in recent years.
The process by which higher education institutions handle these claims has come under scrutiny as the Trump administration and the U.S. Education Department, headed by Betsy DeVos, has proposed a new set of official policy rules on sexual assault and harassment. As The New York Times reported, if the rules become law, the result will be:
- Narrower definition of sexual harassment;
- School accountability allowable only when alleged conduct occurs on campus and only when formal complaints are filed first through proper authorities;
- Heightened standard for legal standard that defines whether schools acted appropriately (no longer “preponderance of the evidence in determining suspension or expulsion, but rather the evidentiary standard of the school’s choice);
- Compelling an informal mediation resolution process.
Meanwhile, more of these claims are filed almost every day.
One of the most recent of those arose in Rancho Palos Verdes at Marymount California University, about one hour southwest of Los Angeles. There, an official at the university has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit accusing the former president of sexual harassment – just weeks after an associated dean filed a very similar sexual harassment lawsuit against the same man and the school.
According to the Daily Breeze, plaintiff, the school’s chief financial officer, was placed on administrative in mid-August, a move her complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, labels retaliatory. The school hasn’t revealed the reason for the leave placement.
She alleges the former president of the small liberal arts school abruptly left in February after making sexually-charged comments about her that were frequent, inappropriate and unwelcome. Further she asserts the former president made attempts to kiss her. When she refused those advances, she says, he took retaliatory action. In her complaint, plaintiff alleges the married administrator (now a real estate agent) attempted to touch her, sometimes making it seem as if he was trying to fix a button on her blouse, and made incessant comments about her appearance. He also allegedly made numerous efforts to be alone with her, including once during an overnight trip to Sonoma County to meet a key donor “surprising” her when she arrived to learn he’d only booked a single room, which he excused as necessary to save university expenses. When the donor later canceled the meeting, the president reportedly revealed he knew that was a likely outcome, but was dishonest so plaintiff would agree to come with him.
Another time during a dinner with colleagues, plaintiff alleged her boss was reportedly behaving as if the two were a couple through his insistence that they share wine and a plate of food. Plaintiff repeatedly felt compelled to defend her reputation to other colleagues present by insisting the two were not involved romantically.
In yet another instance, plaintiff alleged defendant arrived at her home while she was on personal leave due to a family member death. He allegedly tried to get her to lay down next to him and when she did not, threatened to have her fired.
Her sexual harassment lawsuit was filed after she’d exhausted all remedies via the school’s board of trustees (which she alleges failed to investigate) and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, she filed her lawsuit. Defendant has not responded for comment, and the school declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Marymount California University faces second sexual harassment lawsuit by female employee, Oct. 4, 2018, By David Rosenfeld, The Daily Breeze
More Blog Entries:
Rancho Cucamonga Sexual Harassment, Retaliation Alleged at Restaurant, Oct. 3, 2018, Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Attorney Blog