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California woman files federal suit over sexual harassment

A California woman has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit charging her former employer, a Kentucky police department, with sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Her attorney says they plan to request that the claims made in the civil suit she filed last year against the city be moved to federal court as well.

The 57-year-old plaintiff worked for the Alexandria Police Department from 1997 until she was fired in Feb. 2013. That termination followed complaints by the plaintiff, who worked as a records clerk, of a hostile work environment.

The plaintiff says in late 2012, she spoke of her concerns with the police chief, whom she says had made multiple inappropriate comments. What followed, she says, was a series of retaliatory actions.

According to the suit, the police chief required her to undergo psychological testing. She says that her next performance review was the first negative one she'd received during her years with the department.

City officials conducted an investigation of the woman's claims and as a result held sexual harassment training. She says she was then subjected to complaints by officers who blamed her for having to attend the training.

The federal suit, which also includes the police chief and mayor as defendants, details comments allegedly made by the chief about feminine hygiene products and other inappropriate workplace topics. The suit says he also explained why he believed that "men were better than women."

The plaintiff claims that investigators who spoke to the chief during their review of her original complaints have him on tape saying that she, like women who have been raped, are victimizing themselves. One of her attorneys noted, "Being an old law enforcement officer, I thought things had changed. They haven't changed a whole lot."

An attorney representing the city says they "deny any sexually hostile work environment." He says that the mayor fired the woman for "legitimate, wholly non-discriminatory reasons."

Many times, when employees try to take steps within the workplace structure to stop discriminatory or harassing behavior, they suddenly begin receiving negative performance reviews, further harassment and finally termination. This leaves them no choice but to take legal action to recoup lost income and damages for the treatment they have endured. Sometimes it takes legal action to bring about change in a workplace for current and future employees.

Source: Cincinnati.com, "Fired Alexandria Police clerk claims sexual harassment" Jim Hannah, Apr. 04, 2014

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