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When Police Commit Sexual Harassment

Lori Matula, a community service officer in the Des Plaines, Illinois Police Department, filed a lawsuit against the department claiming sexual harassment, retaliation and gender discrimination. Matula claims police staff sent pornographic emails and naked pictures from their workstations to her computer and a former sergeant allegedly led her into the staff locker room and grabbed her in inappropriate places. Matula seeks unspecified damages.

Unfortunately, Matula’s story is not unique. Sexual harassment by male police officers against their female comrades is common problem. We review two cases and examine what California law provides below.

Capitol City sexual harassment

Last month, Alice Valdez, a female police officer in Carson City, Nevada, filed suit claiming sexual harassment and age discrimination. Listing five male officers as defendants, Valdez’s suit alleges that Officer Chris Aranyos made crude comments about how he would engage in sex with her and made sexually explicit physical gestures. Valdez insists that other cops, gubernatorial staff and state workers witnessed the illegal sexual harassment. The lawsuit seeks compensation for the damages caused by the severe and pervasive hostile working environment.

Big Apple sexual harassment

Everything in New York is big news. New York City police officer Jazmia Inserillo was a rookie cop when the alleged sexual harassment from Lt. Jason Margolis began. Inserillo claims that Margolis invited her to his home, grabbed her and attempted to massage her shoulders. After Margolis ran his fingers across her back to check if she was donning a bulletproof vest, Inserillo filed a formal complaint with the police department. The police sent her for a psychological evaluation for anxiety and suspended her for 30 days because she needed treatment for stress and alcohol abuse.

How California employers try to stop it before it starts

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), the state agency empowered to enforce the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), outlines the obligations of California employers to prevent sexual harassment, including:

  • Taking all reasonable steps to stop sexual harassment before it occurs
  • Posting in the workplace an official DFEH sexual harassment poster
  • Distributing a brochure with information about sexual harassment, the law, the complaint process and the legal remedies and DFEH contact information
  • Offering two hours of classroom lectures about sexual harassment to supervisory personnel (for employers of 50 or more people)

Proving sexual harassment can be challenging, because it often involves conflicting reports. An experienced Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer can guide you through the lawsuit process.

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