City of San Diego settles with sexual harassment victims

Frank S. Clowney III

San Diegans will no doubt share a collective sense of relief when stories about the rampant indiscretions perpetrated by the city’s former mayor Bob Filner finally cease. Since accusations of Filner’s misconduct broke last year, a litany of reports recounting examples of inappropriate behavior and the resulting lawsuits have filtered through the media. Recently, cases of two women who accused Filner of sexual harassment were settled.

The city of San Diego is poised to offer an official apology to a woman who made allegations against Filner last year. Additionally, the woman, who worked in the lobby of City Hall, will have a day named in her honor. Among her claims, the woman stated that Filner would grab her hands and request she accompany him on dates, and once unexpectedly planted a kiss on her lips.

This suit followed a suit filed by Filner’s former director of communications. That suit led the former mayor to plead guilty to one false imprisonment count and two misdemeanor battery counts. He received a sentence of three months home confinement along with three years of probation.

Sexual harassment is not a crime strictly about sex; it is also a crime about power. It appeared Filner believed his elevated position granted him ability, without fear of repercussion, to impose himself upon women in his charge. If this was the case, his assumption, as his behavior, was wrong.

Perhaps he counted on his victims being afraid to speak out due to their vulnerable positions in the workplace. Likely, both understood the difficulties they could face bringing the situation to light. To their credit, they did stand up and speak out.

The law in California is clear that when city employees are victimized by sexual harassment on the part of another employee, that city is to be held liable. But regardless of the work environment or the employer, all workers are legally protected against harassment.

Should you ever find yourself in a compromised position created by a sexually aggressive boss, there may be civil or legal recourse available to you.

Source:, “City settles Peggy Shannon’s sexual harassment claim against Bob Filner,” Feb. 20, 2014