Former student worker sues PD for sexual harassment

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A former SWCPD student employee filed a lawsuit alleging sexual assault, civil rights violations and a hostile work environment in the campus police department.

She also claims to have experienced long-term sexual harassment and witnessed sexual harassment directed towards other women.

Court documents filed with the Superior Court detail repeated sexual harassment the anonymous victim, Jane Doe, alleges to have experienced from Oct. 2014 to Oct. 31, 2016.

A “right-to-sue” letter signifying that Doe had exhausted all other administrative courses of action was issued by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing in February.

Doe is suing the college, former employee Kevin McKean, Emergency Management Officer Joseph Martorano and Cpl. Ricardo Suarez. She said in the charge document that she reported sexual harassment to SWCPD Chief Michael Cash, but that he did nothing to assist her.

She is seeking damages and civil penalties.

“In addition to sexually charged and vulgar comments made towards Doe,” the document says, “she was also sexually assaulted by one coworker at her workplace while another coworker aided and abetted in the sexual assault.”

Doe claimed McKean sexually assaulted her while Martorano aided and abetted by luring her into a storage room and shutting her in.

“McKean forcefully grabbed her, turned her around, bent her over the sink and proceeded to force his groin into Doe’s buttocks area,” the lawsuit reads. “As Doe struggled to get loose, McKean stuck his tongue in Doe’s mouth as he tried to forcefully remove the clothing from her body.”

Documents say Doe believed this was a rape attempt, but she did not report this incident because of trauma, humiliation and fear of reprisal from command.

In July of 2015, the documents state, Martorano asked Doe if “her boyfriend knew she had ‘fucked Kevin (McKean)’” in front of a student worker.

Doe was a student when the SWCPD hired her as a Public Safety Assistant in January 2014.

Court papers claim the problem began when Suarez returned to work from leave in fall 2014 and reportedly asked Doe for nude photos, inquired about her sex life and shared unsolicited details about his sex life.

In January 2015 Suarez told Doe to grow her hair longer because he likes to pull on long hair during sex, according to documents.

The lawsuit also states Suarez bragged for months about seeing a female employee’s undergarments when strong winds blew her dress up. Suarez allegedly also bragged about walking in on another employee changing in the women’s locker room. The employee said she saw texts on Suarez’s phone about herself written in a “sexual nature.”

Doe stated that complaints to supervisors, including Cash, were ignored or mishandled.

In July of 2015, Doe complained to Suarez, her immediate supervisor, about Martorano’s behavior.

“Suarez did absolutely nothing to investigate Doe’s complaint or discipline Martorano for his inappropriate behavior,” court documents say. “Instead, Suarez’ solution was to move Doe away from Martorano (into) a back office where she was relegated to doing needless busy work in order to kill time.”

Doe then complained anonymously about Martorano to Cash, court papers say, but Cash revealed to Martorano that Doe was the source of the complaint.

“As a result,” papers say, “the tension in the office grew more unbearable for Doe, especially when she worked near Martorano, who continued to repeatedly harass her.”

In November 2015, Suarez advised Doe not to complain to Cash again because he favored Martorano, the suit states. Suarez said he would talk to the chief, but the court documents say that he never followed through. Suarez advised Doe to apply for a Campus Security Officer (CSO) position so she would not have to work near Martorano, and in January 2016 she was informed that she was not selected for the position. Around that time, Suarez was promoted to Corporal, and he denied Doe’s request for a transfer to a clerical position on grounds that Martorano worked near the clerks and her complaint against Martorano would “bar her transfer.” Suarez said she would be granted the transfer if she remained silent about Martorano, Doe charged.

“I was denied transfer opportunities that would have lessened my contact with the individuals who were sexually harassing me and was told by one supervisor that I would have gotten the transfer I requested had I not complained about the sexual harassment I experienced,”  court documents say.

In spring 2016, Sgt. Robert Sanchez told Doe he would grant the transfer if she could work with Martorano. Doe agreed, and as a result she saw Cpl. Suarez less often. Suarez, however continued to harass her, according to the lawsuit.

“Suarez continued to make inappropriate remarks about Doe’s body and clothing and expressed how much more he preferred looking at her body as a clerk than when Doe would wear the (Public Safety Assistant) uniform,” reads the court document.

The complaint states the harassment by all three McKean, Suarez and Martorano continued until Doe was relocated off the main campus in October 2016.

Marlea Dell’Anno, the attorney who filed the complaint, was formerly in charge of the city’s criminal division as an assistant San Diego City Attorney. She recently initiated a lawsuit against former San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith for wrongful termination.

Her law firm has not replied to interview requests.

SWC officials are currently reviewing the complaint, according to a written statement.

“The District is reviewing the complaint and takes such claims very seriously,” their statement said. “The District will take appropriate action, as needed, to prevent workplace harassment and to remediate any instances of harassment that are found to have occurred.”

Also named in the suit are 20 “Roes,” unnamed people who could become potential defendants in the future.

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