mulberry bags john lewis California pays out millions in sexual harassment settlements

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The Bee found that the highest settlement paid to a single individual went to a former executive assistant at the UC Berkeley School of Law, Tyann Sorrell, who settled her sexual harassment claim last March against the former law school dean, Sujit Choudhry, for $1.7 million. Among state agencies, former correctional officer Irma Sanchez received the highest single settlement of $750,000 after accusing a fellow guard, Sydney Smyth, at the maximum security prison in Corcoran of harassing her over a 2 1/2 year period, despite her repeated complaints to superiors about his conduct, according to Sanchez’s lawsuit.

The Bee found that the state entities responsible for the highest total payouts in recent years were the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, with more than $15 million in settlement costs, and the UC system with an estimated $3.4 million. UC was the only one of the 38 largest state entities that failed to release its 2016 17 sexual harassment settlement data, repeatedly stating it was “not finalized” yet. The Bee relied on other sources to compile at least a partial list of those more recent agreements.

A male warehouse worker for the California State Lottery, Chad Henson, settled his case for $250,000 after he accused co workers of a two year barrage of anti gay comments and harassing behavior. The alleged taunting by fellow warehouse workers Paul Bowden III and Sunday Seng occurred at the Lottery’s Scratchers warehouse in Rancho Cucamonga. Many of the vulgar comments described in the lawsuit focused on sex and male anatomy and, despite Henson’s repeated complaints to his bosses, “no remedial action was taken” by the Lottery, the lawsuit stated.

A male equipment operator for the California Department of Transportation, Gregory Baker, settled his sexual harassment lawsuit for $150,000 after accusing a male supervisor of making unwanted advances and, at one point, holding him down in his pickup truck and rubbing his thigh and genitals. The supervisor, Phil Pulcifer, allegedly rubbed and caressed Baker at work at least two more times after Baker had filed internal complaints. The case was settled quickly by the state, only two months after Baker filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court.

Alice Conteh, a female psychiatric technician for the Department of State Hospitals, said that a male staff psychiatrist, Dr. Ahmed Haggag, cornered her at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton, restrained her by the head and forcibly kissed her on the lips, her lawsuit stated. Conteh, who settled her case for $50,000, said Haggag continuously subjected her to “unwelcome verbal, visual, and physical conduct of a sexual nature,” including telling her that she needed to leave her husband, according to the suit.

Curry’s circumstances led to violence. According to the complaint, Curry was on duty at the Folsom prison in August 2003 when she encountered a hostile and belligerent inmate, naked and masturbating. She wrote a violation report describing him as “a threat to all female staff.” According to the lawsuit, supervisors did not isolate the inmate or do a psychological evaluation. A week later, Curry was working without backup when the inmate attacked her from behind, placed her in a head lock and began cutting her neck with a feces covered metal can lid. Her settlement was $1.6 million.

Sanchez’s complaint alleged that she was harassed by a male co worker, Sydney Smyth, over a 2 1/2 year period and subjected to “unwelcome sexual advances and offensive sexual comments and innuendo in the workplace.” According to her lawsuit, Sanchez filed an internal complaint and reported his conduct to multiple supervisors, but was “subjected to a pattern of retaliatory behavior.” At least one supervisor, Sgt. Eric Lawton, allegedly made demeaning comments about her concerns and “yelled at her for complaining.”

In December, after The Bee had detailed the lack of public settlement data, Yee announced plans to “lift the veil of secrecy” and sponsor legislation that, among other things, would require state government entities to code settlement claims so that they can be differentiated and tracked. Currently, when the Legislature and various state departments submit bills for payment to the state controller, they do not code the request in a way that indicates whether payment is to settle any lawsuit or harassment claim.

How we did this story Finding out how much the state paid to settle its sexual harassment claims is not a simple phone call or browse through the web. But public documents can provide at least a partial view of the legal costs over the last three fiscal years.

By piecing together responses to more than 40 California Public Records Act requests, The Bee identified 92 sexual harassment related settlements between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2017. Besides querying the Attorney General’s Office, The Bee requested copies of settlement agreements from the 38 state entities with 900 or more employees, excluding the judicial branch.

The total payouts for those agencies exceeded $25 million over the past three years, but that figure almost certainly under estimates the scope of California’s settlement costs.

In some instances, the state hires outside attorneys to represent individual defendants at fees significantly higher than the attorney general’s discounted rate. Additionally, the Attorney General’s Office represents many, but not all, of the agencies facing claims, so The Bee’s data may not capture settlements reached by departments who used outside counsel.

The University of California, the state’s largest employer, was the only entity unable to provide settlement costs for the most recent 2016 17 fiscal year, requiring The Bee to find other sources for that data.
mulberry bags john lewis California pays out millions in sexual harassment settlements