Petaluma Faces Firefighter’s Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Women who enter male-dominated professions can often be targets of sexual harassment. While internal policies may educate and inform employees about the definitions of sexual harassment or even have reporting instructions, harassment often turns the workplace into a hostile environment. According to reports a Petaluma Fire Department employee suffered ongoing sexual harassment by her male colleagues. The victim reported that the ongoing harassment was so bad she finally had to leave her position. Now she has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the City of Petaluma.

firefightersPetaluma Fire Department employees have been instructed to preserve all communications in the event of a lawsuit. Two claims have already been filed against the city, one with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and one for unemployment. Considering the weight of these allegations, the city is gearing up to fight a high-profile sexual harassment lawsuit. Our Orange County sexual harassment attorneys are experienced in representing employees who have suffered gender discrimination in the workplace. Under California law, individuals are protected against quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment as well as gender discrimination. We will take the time to review your case, identity any legal cause of action, and aggressively pursue a financial recovery on your behalf.

According to reports, an attorney representing the sexual harassment victim notified the city and the Petaluma Fire Department to preserve all information related to the case. Mobile phones, computers, and other devices owned by the department as well as personal devices were targeted as part of the investigation. In the event of a sexual harassment lawsuit, both parties will be required to preserve any relevant evidence of harassment, including all communications between the victim and her colleagues. The city representatives in this case have met behind closed doors to discuss defense strategy and how to prepare for litigation in response to the claims.

Filing a claim with a municipal body can be more complicated that filing a lawsuit with a private entity. Individuals must first file a claim with the EEOC prior to filing a lawsuit, but they should consult with an independent attorney regardless. The city can decide to settle the claim through the EEOC, which usually involves a payment for damages, or the city can reject the claim as unfounded. A huge number of EEOC claims are rejected. If the EEOC rejects the claim, the firefighter-former employee is still eligible to pursue a lawsuit.

Sources have acknowledged that the fire department employee was repeatedly subjected to inappropriate comments from her male colleagues. She was hired in June of 2008 as the first female firefighter to join the force in over 30 years. As a member of the team, she was required to share living quarters with members of the force. At these times, the department made some arrangements, including putting locks on the bathroom doors and privacy curtains around the bunk. According to some reports, men could see around the curtains and made comments while she changed clothes.

Sexual harassment claims can be complicated and are very fact-dependent. In this case, the victim and her legal team must demonstrate that the supervisors knew of the harassment but failed to intervene. The messages, emails, and any communication related to the harassment will be critical to proving her case. This is a hostile work environment sexual harassment case that hinges on demonstrating that the harassment was tolerated, even encouraged. At least one source has said that the victim made her direct supervisor aware of the harassment, though he made no effort to stop it.

Employment lawsuits can be filed with assistance from the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange County. Call 949.375.4734.

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