A former employee of the Beverly Hills Unified School District has filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and harassment by the district and sexual harassment by a school board member.
The suit was filed May 2 in Los Angeles Superior Court, by Janeese M. Bland, a former secretarial assistant in the personnel department. She seeks $375,000 in lost pay and damages and unspecified punitive damages.
The district has denied the allegations.
Board member Phillip Harris "categorically denied" Bland's charges. "I've always acted in the best interest of the school district and I will continue to do so," he said. Harris declined to comment further.
Bland, an African American, had worked for the district less than six months when she was dismissed April 23, 1993. The district said Bland was fired for poor job performance.
Bland alleged her dismissal resulted from her complaints to Supt. Sol Levine that her supervisor, personnel director Ray Cutten, subjected her to "racial harassment . . . in the form of racial slurs about blacks and Mexican Americans in general, and racial comments about specific minority employees who worked for the district."
Bland said Cutten gave her poor performance evaluations and criticized her work habits after her complaints to Levine. Cutten finally ordered her to resign or face dismissal, the complaint states.
Levine is out of town and could not be reached for comment. Cutten and Eric Bathen, attorney for the school district, did not return telephone calls.
The district has denied the allegations since they were first raised last year in Bland's complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
The department investigated until January, when Bland asked that the investigation be closed because she was filing a lawsuit.
"I have never observed any conduct, nor has it ever been reported to me, that the named employees practiced racial discrimination or harassment of those kind expressed in the complaint, or of any kind," said board President Lillian Raffel.
Concerning the sexual harassment complaint against Harris, Raffel said he would "have to speak for himself."
Bland said Harris made improper advances toward her last spring after she invited him to her apartment to discuss the racial complaints. She contends Harris made sexually offensive remarks, attempted to gain sexual favors and partially disrobed.
Harris, a board member since 1991, said he visited Bland but denied sexually harassing her.
Harris' attorney, Mark Terman, said Harris plans to reiterate his request that the board pay for his defense.
In November, when the fair employment and housing complaint was pending, the board voted not to pay Harris' legal expenses, despite his contention that he was acting in the role of board member when he went to speak to Bland.