Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Against LA Prompt Calls For Prevention Training

In the wake of two lawsuits filed against the city, two Los Angeles officials are pushing for all city employees to take sexual harassment training courses.City Council President Herb Wesson and City Councilwoman Nury Martinez introduced a proposal Thursday that would require mandatory sexual harassment prevention training. Currently, just managers take the course. Additionally, the course would have to be taught by an individual, not simply taken online.

The council members also want employees to take a workforce violence training program and are seeking to bolster the city’s Ethic Commission training course.

“I’m concerned that city employees are receiving the proper training and that we are protecting our employees,” Martinez said.

Martinez, who represents Sun Valley, Pacoima, and neighboring communities, said she wants to ensure training is on par with what state workers receive. The two lawsuits prompted her to submit the motion, she said.

City Councilman Jose Huizar and John Lee, a top aide to Councilman Mitch Englander, are both facing separate harassment lawsuits by former aides. A former aide in Englander’s office, unidentified in the lawsuit, described a culture of “discriminatory and harassing conduct” in the office and said Lee often made inappropriate, offensive and sexual comments. The Huizar suit was filed by former deputy chief of staff Francine Godoy, who claimed a pattern of harassment and that the councilman made sexual favors a condition of her employment and his support for her running for another political office.

Huizar denies the allegations, saying he had a consensual affair with the woman. Englander said he’s “surprised” by the lawsuit against his chief of staff.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has also recently called for strengthening harassment training for employees. “Anyone can harass anyone, regardless of whether you are a manager or not — an underling can harass a supervisor,” Garcetti said.

The renewed talk about sexual harassment comes amid concern about a lack of female politicians at City Hall. All but one of L.A.’s 18 elected officials — Martinez — is male, a political climate Garcetti said is worrying. But he also pointed out harassment doesn’t just happen between men and women.

“Sexual harassment can occur between men, between women, in either direction,” Garcetti said. “So it’s not just that there is more men around (that) inherently there is going to be more sexual harassment.” ___

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