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Former Merced DA investigators sue for harassment, retaliation

Two former employees of the Merced County district attorney's office in Northern California have filed a civil lawsuit against the office and the county for sexual harassment and retaliation. A 41-year-old woman, who was an investigative assistant, and her then-boyfriend, a 35-year-old man who worked as a criminal investigator, claim their supervisor subjected them to sexual harassment. They contend that their supervisor had feelings for the woman and was jealous of the pair's relationship. They also accuse him of retaliating when they complained about his actions, and eventually terminating them.

According to the lawsuit, the supervisor made sexual comments and requests to the woman, touched her inappropriately, and sent her offensive e-mails. She says that he interrogated her about her relationship with her co-worker, and told her that he loved her. Her boyfriend said that the 52-year-old supervisor asked him for nude photographs of the woman. When the man reported his supervisor's actions to Merced District Attorney Larry Morse II, he says that he started receiving poor performance reviews, unwarranted discipline, and additional job responsibilities.

The couple filed charges against their supervisor in 2009 with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After an internal investigation, the arbitrator dismissed the allegations. The female plaintiff was terminated in July of 2011, and the man was laid off the following April. Although the lay-offs were categorized as reductions in force, the two claim that they lost their jobs because they complained about their manager. The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount for lost wages, emotional distress, and punitive damages.

Harassment and retaliation can occur anywhere -- even in work environments where employees should be cognizant of appropriate workplace behavior. Anyone who has been the object of sexual harassment or retaliation for complaining about any kind of inappropriate behavior should consult an attorney who specializes in employment law. Legal assistance can help ensure that your rights are protected, and that you receive any compensatory damages that you are due.

Source: Merced Sun-Star, Ex-DA workers sue over alleged harassment" Ramona Giwargis, Aug. 16, 2013

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