Sexual Harassment Went on Too Long, Man Says
(CN) - Kaiser staff allowed a homosexual employee free reign to continue sexually harassing a heterosexual co-worker, and then joked about it, the co-worker says in a Los Angeles County Superior Court Complaint.
Marqui Barber is a 29-year-old African-American male who has worked as an emergency medical technician in Kaiser’s West Los Angeles Cadillac emergency department since 2010.
Defendant Bolos Mendoza is a registered nurse who worked in the same department, according to Barber who claims Mendoza is openly gay and that he “has discussed in the workplace his homosexuality and his diagnoses of being HIV positive among co-workers,” that he is a “very effeminate male and rather flamboyant in his mannerisms in the workplace” and is often observed “expressing his interest in having sexual relations with men.”
Barber claims he became the target of those unwelcome expressions in about 2012 when Mendoza began making “repeated” sexual advances toward him, remarking about his body and telling co-workers he wanted to have sex with him.
“Mendoza would remark to plaintiff that [he] has ‘big arms,’ and that he wondered what else was ‘big,’ inferring that he wanted to see plaintiff’s penis,” according to a 36-page complaint.
Barber says Mendoza once gave him a tea bag that read ‘Organic Throat Coat,’ intimating his desire to have oral sex. The harassment, he says, continued on in that fashion for some time.
“Mendoza would walk up to plaintiff and say ‘you’re so strong,’ ‘Your arms are so big,’ ‘Oh, you’re so cute,’ ‘You must have a big dick,’ ‘You really look good’ and would say ‘Oh, Marqui,’ in a flirtatious, sexually suggestive tone.’”
Barber claims that Mendoza would tell co-workers he wanted to bend him over and have sex with him, creating an uncomfortable and hostile work environment.
He says he made several attempts to resolve the situation, making complaints to department administrator Patsy Ballangee; assistant clinical directors Tonya Fleeks, Sheryl Brown and Abigail Evangelista; assistant clinical director and interim department administrator Sarah Poetter; and others, some of them, Barber says, “smirk[ing] and “smil[ing]” at the allegations.
He says he was told that an investigation was being conducted by Kaiser’s legal department, but that the investigation was “tainted” because Mendoza was “contacting witnesses, labeling plaintiff a ‘homo phob,’” according to the complaint.
Brown specifically told Barber to “just ignore [Mendoza]” and Ballangee said “she can’t do anything for [plaintiff].”
In a Sept. 5, 2014 letter, Mitchell Miller, a human resource compliance senior investigation specialist, told Barber that “while Kaiser concluded that inappropriate and unprofessional behavior had occurred by Mendoza, Kaiser believed that plaintiff’s concerns were addressed and resolved,” according to the complaint.
“Mitchell had also indicated via email to plaintiff that Mitchell received approval to send plaintiff’s closure letter which substantiated plaintiff’s claim/allegation of sexual harassment. However, the issues had not been addressed and resolved because Mendoza continued to create a hostile work environment and harass plaintiff, resulting in plaintiff experiencing discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.”
Barber says that once his complaint had been lodged, “Kaiser repeatedly sought to move [him] from his EMT position, rather than rectify the problem by moving the harasser, Mendoza,” the complaint states.
The harassment continued, Mendoza ramping up the effort by allegedly touching Barber as he walked by and then smirking afterwards, even after Barber told him he did not want to be touched.
He says Kaiser did nothing until he began suffering physical symptoms he alleges were connected to anxiety created by the situation with Mendoza.
Finally, on June 30, 2015, Mendoza was transferred to the hospital’s gastroenterology department, Barber claiming that Mendoza nonetheless continued the sexual harassment by spreading rumors that he is a “homo phob,” by “simulating performing oral sex on a hot dog and posting it on Facebook” and returning to the emergency department where he would walk past Barber “even though Mendoza was assigned to work on GI on the second floor.”
Barber sued Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc.; Kaiser Foundation Hospitals; Southern California Permanente Medical Group, Inc.; Mendoza and individual Teodoro Kann for harassment, discrimination based on sexual orientation, retaliation, negligent supervision and retention, battery and defamation.
He seeks general and punitive damages for loss of past and future earnings, lost pension and insurance, costs and attorneys’ fees.
Barber is represented by Twila White and Matthew Crawford in Culver City, Calif.