Judge: Sexual Harassment Suit Against Councilman's Chief of Staff Is a Go

At the same time, Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis wants a good explanation of why attorneys have not revealed the name of the plaintiff, a former field deputy for Councilman Mitch Englander.

Councilman Mitch Englander. Photo courtesy the city of Los Angeles.
Councilman Mitch Englander. Photo courtesy the city of Los Angeles.

A judge ruled today that a sexual harassment suit brought against Councilman Mitch Englander's chief of staff by a former field deputy can move forward.

But in her ruling, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis also said she wants the plaintiff's attorneys to file briefs within five court days explaining why their client should be allowed to continue to avoid using her real name in court documents.

The woman, identified in her lawsuit as "Jane Doe," sued the city and Englander's chief of staff, John Lee, last fall. The Sept. 16 complaint alleges discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination, all in violation of the state Fair Employment and Housing Act.

The plaintiff alleges she was forced to quit her job because of the alleged misconduct.

In their court papers, defense attorneys challenged all of the woman's allegations. Deputy City Attorney Vivienne Swanigan argued the wrongful termination claim in particular was unsupported by law because the plaintiff quit and was not fired. She also argued that despite the woman's pleadings, her allegation also is not supported by the state's Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Plaintiff's attorney Bradley Benham countered that the law allows his client to allege the wrongful termination claim under FEHA.

The plaintiff alleges Lee of subjected her to repeated "inappropriate and offensive jokes and comments of a sexual nature." She also maintains she was denied a chance to apply for a job as a public safety deputy because she was not a white male.

Attorneys for Lee and the city maintain the plaintiff should not be allowed to pursue her case anonymously.

"The need for secrecy in a sexual harassment complaint has gone the way of the Salem witch hunts," according to the defense's court papers. "It is no more. The city is not required to guess both the plaintiff's identity and the allegations of her complaint."

The plaintiff was hired as a secretary and later promoted to a field deputy post, the City Attorney's Office's court papers state.

--City News Service


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