A Textbook Case on Sexual Harassment

     VENTURA, Calif. (CN) – The CEO of Ventura County’s Medi-Cal Commission spanked a secretary, felt her up with his toes, and when she complained, an HR administrator told her, “I can see why this would be exciting to you,” the secretary claims in court.
     Audra Lucas sued the Ventura County Managed Medi-Cal Care Commission, its CEO Earl Greenia, and Regional Government Services, a public entity, in Ventura County Court.
     She claims that Greenia’s harassment was so severe it made her vomit.
     It’s not the first go-round for these defendants, who were sued in December for allegedly mismanaging $1 million in taxpayer money and firing whistleblowers.
     Lucas seeks damages from Greenia for sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and assault and battery.
     The commission, dba Gold Coast Health Plan, is managed by Regional Government Services. Lucas accuses them of failure to prevent harassment, negligence, and vicarious liability for her complaints against Greenia.
     Regional Government Services hired Lucas as an administrative assistant in January 2011. Gold Coast HR director Candice Limousin – one of the plaintiff-whistleblowers who claimed to have been fired by Greenia – and Greenia himself interviewed Lucas for the position.
     In her complaint, Lucas says that at first she and Greenia enjoyed a purely professional relationship, as Greenia appeared to take an interest in her career goals. But Greenia’s questions became more personal, “more directed toward her appearance, her personal life and her romantic relationships and less about her professional goals,” according to the complaint.
     “During this time, Lucas began to notice that Greenia would fixate on her and ‘check her out.’ For example, she would notice him staring at her legs if she were sitting down across from him. He would make comments to her about her clothing, such as ‘that dress looks good on you’ or ‘you should wear dresses more often.’ Lucas did not tell Greenia that these comments made her feel uncomfortable because she was fearful of losing her job,” Lucas says in her complaint.
     Lucas says Greenia’s behavior toward her progressed to “joking” – unprofessional comments about other employees – in which she participated, at first, because she didn’t want to be rude. But by July 2011, she was concerned that Greenia had become “too involved with her on a personal level,” according to the complaint.
     “During this time Greenia told Lucas on more than one occasion that if she was not so ‘hot’ he would have fired her for missing work. Additionally, Greenia’s comments became more sexual in nature. Between July 2011 and March 2012, Greenia began to outwardly flirt with Lucas and make comments to Lucas that made her feel uncomfortable. Greenia would brush up against Lucas or touch her knee in conversation. Greenia would make comments about his desire to ‘role play’ with Lucas. He wanted to play the boss role and asked Lucas to refer to him as ‘Boss’ or ‘Sir.’ He referred to Lucas as ‘Secretary.’ When requesting coffee from Lucas, he would say he wanted it ‘blonde, sweet and strong’ (referring to Lucas). When Greenia flirted or made sexually suggestive comments to Lucas, she would remind him that he was married and try to change the subject. She also tried to avoid situations where she would be alone with Greenia,” Lucas claims. (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Then Greenia began sending her sexually charged text messages and emails and asked her to send him pictures of her, Lucas says.
     “On or around September 2011, Greenia gave Lucas a flash drive [which] contained pornographic movies. Lucas did not watch the movies but knows they were pornographic because Greenia asked her which scenes she liked and he described which ones he liked. Although Lucas told him several times to stop behaving inappropriately, Greenia continued. He told her she had to ‘appease’ him. Lucas was afraid to lose her job and felt pressured to go along with Greenia,” the complaint states.
     In her complaint, Lucas recounts the time Greenia invited her to lunch to celebrate her birthday, and told her not to tell her co-workers about it.
     “At the restaurant, Greenia took off his shoes and placed his feet on Lucas’s lap and up her skirt. Lucas was scared and asked him to stop numerous times. After lunch, Greenia asked Lucas to accompany him to a nearby bookstore. Lucas hesitantly went with Greenia. While in the bookstore, Greenia cornered Lucas, came up behind her, pulled her hair, breathed on her and said, ‘I know you like it, Secretary.’ Lucas tried to get away from him and told him to stop,” Lucas says in her complaint.
     She continues: “After the bookstore, Lucas said goodbye to Greenia and started walking to her car. Greenia quickly followed behind Lucas. Lucas felt like Greenia was chasing her. As she approached her car, Greenia caught up to Lucas and pulled her behind a nearby building. Greenia proceeded to force himself on Lucas and touch her all over her body. Lucas was terrified; again she told him to stop as she tried to free herself from him.”
     Lucas claims Greenia also enjoyed dispensing a bit of corporal punishment.
     “On another occasion, Greenia and Lucas were in the elevator alone together on their way to a meeting. Greenia turned to Lucas and said ‘It’s time for your spanking.’ He then spanked Lucas on her buttocks. Lucas was frightened and uncomfortable with Greenia’s behavior so she told him she forgot something and got off the elevator and walked toward the stairs to her office,” the complaint states.
     Lucas repeatedly states that she was afraid to report Greenia’s behavior and felt forced to accept it. In February 2012, however, she says, she confided in both Gold Coast HR manager Limousin and Regional Government Services HR manager Jennifer Bower – to no avail.
     “Ms. Bower told Lucas that she was very busy and could not meet with Lucas for another two weeks. Lucas pleaded with Bower to meet her as soon as possible because she could no longer tolerate the stress of her working environment. Reluctantly, Bower met with Lucas at a café to discuss her complaint. When Lucas told Bower about the harassment, Bower’s reply to Lucas was, ‘I can see why this would be exciting to you.’ Ms. Bower did not take Lucas’s complaint seriously and Lucas felt as though Ms. Bower was in some way blaming Lucas for the sexual harassment. Lucas then showed Bower the text messages Greenia sent her. It was at that time that Bower seemed to believe Lucas,” the complaint states.
     Lucas says Greenia’s harassment made her emotionally distraught and so physically ill she vomited, eventually causing her to take a leave of absence.
     “Lucas is emotionally distraught from the ongoing sexual harassment. Lucas began to experience a significant amount of stress that has affected every aspect of her life. She has missed several days of work due to the stress. The stress has been so severe that she has become physically ill. Lucas has lost a significant amount of weight; she continues to vomit and experiences fainting spells as a result of the stress and anxiety related to this harassment. On one occasion, Lucas fainted at work and had to be transported to the emergency room by ambulance,” Lucas says in her complaint.
     Gold Coast placed Lucas on administrative leave of absence because of the stress. Shortly afterward, Greenia resigned and Regional Government informed her that she would no longer be employed as of Aug. 31, 2012.
     “The correspondence indicated that defendant Regional Government Services is working with defendant Gold Coast Health Plan’s interim CEO and interim CFO to transition services to Gold Coast by Sept. 1, 2012. Prior to Aug. 31, 2012 defendant Gold Coast Health Plan would contact each employee regarding their employment status. Neither defendant Regional Government Services nor defendant Gold Coast Health Plan contacted plaintiff regarding her employment status by Sept. 1, 2012. For a period of time, plaintiff was unclear about her employment status with the defendants. Plaintiff was finally advised that her employment was terminated in a letter by RGS, dated Sept. 24, 2012. Upon information and belief, all defendant Regional Government Services employees, with the exception of plaintiff have been retained by defendant Gold Coast Health Plan. At no time was plaintiff offered a position with Gold Coast Health Plan. Gold Coast Health Plan has hired several employees since the Sept. 1, 2012 transfer of RGS employees to Gold Coast Health Plan,” Lucas says in her complaint.
     She adds: “Defendant Gold Coast Health Plan employees, agents, officers and directors are aware of plaintiff’s complaint of sexual harassment and hostile work environment.”
     Lucas seeks general, special, compensatory and punitive damages. She is represented by Joshua Newstat and Jeremy Lessem of Ventura.

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