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First Filner sexual harassment settlement reached in San Diego

Most Southern Californians remember the saga of former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. The mayor resigned last year amid charges of sexual harassment by a number of women, some of whom worked for and with him in city government.

One of the first women who filed a sexual harassment complaint has just reached a settlement with the City of San Diego. The mayor’s former communications director will receive $250,000 from the city. She was represented by well-known attorney Gloria Allred.

With this settlement, the former mayor avoids a court scheduled for next year. Under the terms of the settlement, to which Filner agreed, the city accepts responsibility for the former mayor’s actions as his employer. The agreement stipulates that the plaintiff cannot take any further civil action against the city or Filner for his actions.

The plaintiff alleged that Filner harassed her on several occasions, both physically and verbally. One of these advances involved the infamous “Filner headlock” in which he allegedly forcibly kissed her. Among other inappropriate comments, she said he asked her not to wear underwear to the office.

Filner pleaded guilty last October to felony false imprisonment as well as two charges of battery. He received a sentence of three months house arrest. He is also on probation for three years and must participate in mental health counseling.

In a press conference, the plaintiff thanked those who supported her – especially the other women who gave their accounts of run-ins with Filner. She said, “Together, we made a difference. I stand in solidarity with you.” She has been on unpaid leave from her job, but is scheduled to return to work on April 1.

This settlement by no means marks the end of the city’s or Filner’s legal battles. Two other sexual harassment suits brought by a Marine veteran and an employee of San Diego’s Parks and Recreation Department are still pending. It was not reported if other women who came forward with allegations, one of whom is a former member of the San Diego City Council, are taking civil action against the city or Filner.

It is never easy to speak out about sexual harassment by an employer. Many people fear they will not be believed and/or that their job will be in jeopardy. However, by speaking up and taking action, employees can help create a safer workplace for themselves and others.

Source: NBC 7 San Diego, “McCormack Jackson: ‘Together, We Made a Difference’” Monica Garske, Feb. 11, 2014

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