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Fake Robbery Targets Female Workers At California Water District

In Taft, California, many residents deal only in cash. So, when it comes time to pay the utility bill, they come, cash in hand to the West Kern Water District office. Because the cashier's office could have a substantial amount of cash on hand at any given time, employees were given training in how to handle a robbery.

Holding the training makes sense, sure, but the water district went one step further and tested its employees - well, only the female employees - on what they learned during the training. A fake robbery was planned and executed. A female employee, Kathy Lee, was 'robbed' at 'gunpoint' by her supervisors. All the male employees were sent out of the office on work-related business, leaving only four female employees to staff the cashier's booths.

Wearing a ski mask, a hat and sunglasses, one supervisor (unrecognized by any of the female employees) threw a bag down on a cash window and pointed to the message written on it, "'I have a gun put your money in the bag."

Lee tried to reach the silent alarm, but the 'robber' knew what she was doing and aggressively pointed to the threat and demand on the bag. She filled the bag, thinking the entire time "Please don't shoot me anyway."

Before anyone could dial 911, another employee revealed the robbery to be a hoax. The announcement, rather than ease everyone's nerves, sent Lee into convulsions and uncontrollable tears. She was unable to finish her shift that day and was unable to return to work for an extended period of time because of the fear caused by the fake robbery.

Lee has filed a lawsuit alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, violation of the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and assault. Because the robbery targeted only the female employees, an additional claim for harassment based on gender or gender discrimination may also be appropriate, depending on any additional facts related to the incident.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Worker Says 'Test' Robbery Devastated Her," August 28, 2012

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