San Diego City Council Approves $525,000 Sexual Harassment Settlement

San Diego City Council has approved a settlement of $525,000 relating to a 2-year old lawsuit involving sexual harassment allegations made by an 18-year veteran of the city’s fire and rescue department. The unanimous approval was given recently in a video meeting, the contents of which have not been made public.

Victim’s Lawsuit

Fire captain Sara Alfaro lodged a 45-page complaint on April 20, 2018, alleging that she had been victimized by several years of sexual harassment by her male colleagues. She claimed that the environment at her workplace was definitely male dominated and included instances of harassment.

Alfaro alleged that in 2013, when she was at the Station 29, and holding equipment and gear in both her hands, Captain Broderick Perkins (who is now retired) approached her and partially unzipped her top. This caused her chest to be exposed. In a previous instance, when she was at Station 12 and standing on a ladder, Captain Perkins had also slapped her buttocks.

The lawsuit further stated that around 2014 or 2015, when Alfaro was the only permanent female firefighter at Station 10, she left her towel in a bathroom at the station (the towel had her name embroidered on it). She later received a text message with an image of a penis physically resting on the towel next to her name.

A photograph of Alfaro’s face with a photoshopped image of a penis beside it was later circulated around the department, she stated. The department’s male member openly expressed misogynist and male chauvinist views in her presence. She had also heard male colleagues at the workplace calling women “subservient” and discussing the bodies of a few women who worked in the department.

Department’s Response

Alfaro said in her lawsuit that instead of taking prompt action to protect her, the city’s HR department and the San Diego Fire and Rescue Department went ahead and disclosed information about her complaints and the ensuing investigation to the male members of the department. They did this despite Alfaro’s repeated warnings that this would only lead to retaliation by her male co-workers.

Escaping from Public Oversight during COVID-19?

The fact that the city council has now quietly approved a settlement in this case, without disclosing any details, it has raised eyebrows. In wake of the COVID-19 emergency, it seems that transparency laws, including several aspects of the Public Records Act and California’s Open Meeting Act, are being ignored.

Some analysts are questioning whether the pandemic has become an excuse to justify the avoidance of public oversight of local government.

Consult with an Accomplished Sexual Harassment Law Firm in California

If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual harassment at the workplace in any form (now or in the past), you can receive the best legal advice from highly skilled sexual harassment attorneys at Makarem & Associates in California. Call310-312-0299 today or email at [email protected].