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California police department sued for sexual harassment

A former police dispatcher has sued the city of Newport Beach in the Orange County Superior Court recently claiming sexual harassment. The woman claims that several employment laws were broken by the Newport Beach police chief while she was employed. According to the suit, the woman had worked for the department since 1990. Her husband had also worked as a police officer.

In a separate suit, her husband sued the police department for wrongful termination after an incident in 2008. Following this suit, the woman claims that she started to receive unwanted sexual advances from the police chief. The woman alleges that the chief intimidated her and made unwanted and inappropriate comments to her.

In Feb. 2012, the woman was fired from her position with the department. In the lawsuit, she claims that she was wrongfully terminated in addition to suffering from the sexual harassment. The city and the police department have also been sued in the action.

The city, on the other hand, claims that no wrongdoing has taken place in the case but has not commented further.

Under California employment laws, California workers have the right to a workplace that is free from sexual harassment. This harassment does not have to be physical touching -- although it can be. Under the law, sexual harassment includes any type of unwanted sexual advance including jokes, comments, notes, letters or gestures. Furthermore, creating a hostile work environment because of the comments, threats or other sexually inappropriate behavior is also illegal.

Workers who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace should understand that they have legal rights. These workers may be entitled to compensation. They are also protected from losing their jobs if they complain about the sexual harassment. If a worker is fired for complaining about sexual harassment, then that worker may also be entitled to damages for wrongful termination.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Ex-Newport Beach dispatcher claims sexual harassment by chief in suit," Jill Cowan, May 3, 2013

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