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California sexual harassment suit names Catholic high school

Have you ever heard someone make a sexually offensive comment and follow it up with “I’m just kidding?” The offender not only tries to justify bad behavior but attempts to turn the tables and say that it’s the victim’s fault for being “sensitive.” Sexual harassment for amusement can be vicious and. It is also illegal in California workplaces.

A teacher at an all-male Catholic high school in San Mateo has filed a lawsuit against her employer and the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Francisco. The complaint alleges the defendants were aware that students were sexually harassing female teachers but failed to stop it. The plaintiff stated that high school administrators ignored her until she threatened to involve police. The school then called authorities.

The suit alleges that the teacher knew about sexual harassment at Serra High School from the time she started working there in 2006. There were two incidents involving students taking or attempting to take up-skirt photos of other female teachers. The plaintiff says she became a target in early 2012 starting with the discovery of clearly sexual graffiti about her in a school bathroom.

Administrators took no action then or later in the year, when the teacher was named in sexually explicit student tweets. In May 2013, the employee was called to the principal’s office and told an up-skirt video of her was rumored to be circulating. After speaking with several students, the woman learned in vivid detail that the rumor was true. The teacher took a leave from the school.

Police blamed six boys for the online image that apparently circulated among school athletes. Six students were expelled and an equal number was suspended. Investigators say the practice of taking teachers’ up-skirt photos had been going on for years.

Los Angeles employers who permit harassment in a workplace may be held accountable for neglecting to protect an employee. Plaintiffs can claim losses associated with the harm done, including lost wages and emotional damages.

Source: Contra Costa Times, “Serra High lawsuit: Catholic school boys competed for up-skirt photos of female teachers” Matthias Gafni, May. 15, 2014

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