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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | SIMI VALLEY

Ex-City Worker Files Harassment Claim

January 15, 1998|COLL METCALFE

A former city employee filed a claim against the city, alleging that she was sexually harassed by a male co-worker and subsequently fired after she complained to supervisors.

Linda Garner, 31, a janitor with the city's transit system until last fall, is seeking an unspecified amount in general and punitive damages as well as reimbursement of medical expenses and lost wages for the alleged harassment.

"She's a victim and was fired in spite of that," said Garner's attorney, Fred Crawford. "You can't be fired for complaining about being harassed."

Assistant City Manager Laura Herron said city officials looked into the allegations last year and took appropriate action, which she would not specify.

"We take these matters very seriously and, to the best of my knowledge, we did the same in this instance," Herron said.

City Atty. John Torrance said Wednesday that the claim contains new allegations, which will be investigated by the city. Simi Valley refused to comment on how it will answer the claim, but Crawford said he expects it will be denied. If that happens, Crawford said he will file suit against the city.

Similar to a lawsuit, claims are required to be filed against government entities to give them the option of settling the matter without going to court. If the city denies or ignores Garner's claim, which was filed late Tuesday, a lawsuit can then be pursued.

In her claim, Garner alleges that the harassment began soon after she was hired to clean the city's buses last April.

During her 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. shift, Garner maintains that a male employee made repeated sexual advances, directed vulgar comments toward her and groped her breasts.

Garner claims she promptly reported the incidents to supervisors and fellow employees, but was told to ignore the advances because a harassment claim would "blow up in your face."

In early summer, said her attorney, Garner complained to her supervisor and filed reports with the Simi Valley Police Department and the city's Human Resources Department about the incidents.

Garner was fired on Oct. 14 for unspecified reasons. Her attorney said that since her termination, Garner has had to move from her Ventura apartment to live with relatives in Los Angeles.

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