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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
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‘When Did You Lose Your Virginity?’

EUREKA, Calif. (CN) - Despite recorded evidence, the California Highway Patrol refused to discipline an officer who sexually harassed a cadet, and retaliated against the cadet for reporting it, the woman claims in court.

Nicole Summer Smith sued the California Highway Patrol in Federal Court. The CHP is the only defendant.

Smith, of Mendocino County, claims Officer Brian Call sexually harassed her with "several intrusive, highly personal and offensive questions regarding her sex life" during a background screening test on Dec. 16, 2010.

Smith's nonparty husband also is a Highway Patrolman.

Smith claims that during the mandatory, recorded Critical Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA), Call asked: "how old she was when she lost her virginity; how many sexual partners had she had; would she ever consider cheating on her husband; and did she find him (Call) attractive. The entire CVSA was audio tape-recorded."

Smith says she "was shocked and humiliated by Officer Call's line of questioning, [but] she feared that a refusal to answer would affect her ability to become a cadet; she therefore felt compelled to answer the improper questions."

She says she and her husband feared retaliation if they reported the harassment, but a family friend in the department reported it.

Smith claims a CHP sergeant gave her a citizen's complaint form, but without explaining that she could file an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint, the correct procedure for applicants reporting discrimination.

Smith claims the CHP substantiated her harassment claims, but gave no indication that it punished Call, who admitted to the behavior.

Smith says that when she pushed ahead with the complaint process, the CHP subjected her to an interview that was "more akin to an interrogation."

Meanwhile, the CHP accused Smith of failing to submit a form for her application, failing to return calls, and made her retake a psychological exam, she says in the complaint.

While Call remained in his position as a background investigator, Smith dropped out of the application process, "convinced that she would continue to encounter adverse treatment during her quest to become a CHP officer as well as during her possible career with defendant," the complaint states.

She seeks damages for retaliation, employment and civil rights violations, and emotional distress.

She is represented by Susan Sher of Ukiah.

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