On Monday, Irene McCormack Jackson filed a complaint for damages against the City of San Diego, and Mayor Filner, for sexual harassment/employment discrimination. Filner's former communications director, Jackson claims that Filner allegedly created a hostile and intimidating work environment.
Among many allegations, Jackson cites examples of inappropriate touching: patting her behind, kissing on the cheek, and putting her in a head lock. She further alleges that on many occasions the Mayor made inappropriate comments including asking when they would get married, when they would consummate the marriage, and even asking her to work without her panties on.
Exhausting her administrative remedies, Jackson is seeking an unspecified amount of general, and compensatory, damages to be proven at trial under California Code § 12940. She also alleged that she believe Filner may have acted inappropriately toward other women in the office and sought leave to amend her complaint in the future should she learn of other incidents.
Since Jackson filed her complaint, six other women have come forward alleging sexual harassment by Filner, and all are calling on him to step down. On Monday, Filner issued a statement stating:
I am saddened by the charges that were leveled against me today. Once due process is allowed to unfold, I am certain there will be a better understanding of this situation....I do not believe these claims are valid. That is why due process is so important. I intend to defend myself vigorously and I know that justice will prevail.
Earlier today, Mayor Filner was served with a subpoena and will be deposed on August 9th, by Gloria Allred, Jackson's attorney, reports U-T San Diego. He also held a press conference where he apologized for his "failure to respect women" and stated that "words alone are not enough", the LA Times reports. He also stated that beginning August 5, he would begin intensive therapy at a behavior counseling center.
All this comes after last night's vote, by the central committee of the San Diego County Democratic Party, asking Mayor Filner to resign. The LA Times reports that City Council President Todd Gloria stated: "There is no place in the Democratic Party for those who harass, intimidate or do not fully respect women."
To succeed in her claim, Jackson will have to show that the harassment was "severe or pervasive enough to alter working conditions and to create an abusive environment." If she succeeds, the city will be strictly liable for the Mayor's actions since California proscribes employers' strict liability if the underlying claim is proved. Her award is also potentially very large. If successful on the merits, she can recover damages for past and future wage loss, medical/psychiatric expense and emotional distress. On top of that, she may be entitled to punitive damages and attorney fees.
If Mayor Filner does not resign, the only way to oust him would be through a recall election or if he were convicted of a felony, says the LA Times. Opponents are calling for a recall movement, and with 69% of San Diego residents thinking Filner should resign, they may have a shot.
- How Do You Address Sexual Harassment Complaints? (FindLaw's In House Blog)
- Can a Single Slur Create a Hostile Work Environment? (FindLaw's U.S. D.C. Circuit Blog)
- Court Revives Harassment Claim Based on Saucy Comments (FindLaw's U.S. Second Circuit Blog)