California Parks and Rec Department Faces Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

In a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit filed in June, Adure Renee Velazquez, a former personnel manager at the California Department of Parks and Recreation, alleged that former Deputy Director of Administrative Services Manuel Lopez made sexual comments to her on several occasions. It further alleged that Lopez made these comments in front of other employees and fired her without cause after she complained about the handling of another sexual harassment claim. Two women filed that claim against one of Lopez’s subordinates.

According to CBS Sacramento, Velazquez claimed that Lopez “appeared intoxicated discussing sex . . . and women injured when having sex,” behavior which “created an oppressive, hostile, intimidating and/or offensive work environment.” Velazquez says when she reported the harassment to her boss, Jason Summers, she was told to “ignore it.”

Velazquez, who suffered back injuries in a car accident last year, was fired three days after returning from disability leave. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Lopez dismissed her from her job without any investigation after discovering that she had been participating in Zumba fitness classes, which she did at her doctor’s recommendation as part of her physical therapy.” The alleged harassment occurred in the months before she took leave. Velazquez hopes her lawsuit will prompt change in the parks department, where she says women who complain about sexual harassment are called “crazy, troublemakers.”

Velazquez’s lawsuit is one of several controversies surrounding Lopez and the parks department. Lopez resigned in May after an internal investigation revealed he had spearheaded and benefited from an unauthorized vacation buyout program involving more than $271,000 in public funds. He has also been accused by former Parks Director Ruth Coleman, who herself resigned in July, of playing a role in hiding $54 million in two special funds, even as 70 parks were at risk of closure due to state budget cuts.

Federal law protects all employees — male and female — from sexual harassment in the workplace. When an employee reports that he or she is being sexually harassed, the employer has a duty to properly investigate the complaint and take appropriate corrective actions. Employers cannot retaliate against employees for reporting harassment, including unjustly firing, demoting, or withholding pay or benefits from an employee.

If you are being sexually harassed at work, you do not have to face it alone. Contact an experienced Los Angeles employment attorney today to learn about your legal rights. A dedicated Los Angeles employment lawyer can help you get the justice you deserve.

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