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Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District in Center of Sexual Harassment Scandal

Friday, July 05, 2013

In the latest in a series of sexual harassment complaints involving the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, a woman has filed a lawsuit against the agency. The lawsuit claims that she was repeatedly stalked and abused by a former fire chief.

Lisa Barsdale, in her lawsuit, claims that he was constantly harassed by former Deputy fire Marshal Stephen Broderick. Broderick who has since retired had been Barsdale‘s supervisor since 2005. The lawsuit claims a number of inappropriate behaviors including comments made to Barsdale, and requests for sexual favors. For instance, according to the lawsuit, in March of 2009, Broderick suggested to Barksdale that they spend time together at a conference that they were both supposed to attend.

On the 5th of March, Barksdale filed a complaint. The following month, the complaint was sustained, but she was placed on two days of administrative leave. Even after the complaint, authorities at the fire district simply ordered Barksdale to go back to work under Broderick’s supervision.

The lawsuit also names Fire Chief Donald Mette, who has also since retired from his position. Mette was in charge of overseeing the department at the time the harassment took place.

This isn't the first time that California sexual harassment lawyers have found the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District at the center of a sexual harassment controversy. In fact, it is only the most recent in a string of complaints alleging sexual harassment at the agency. Just a few years ago, the district was involved in a harassment scandal that involved several supervisors. That scandal ended with a payout of $550,000 to the woman who had filed the complaint. Since then, other employees at the agency have also filed their own lawsuits, alleging that they were unfairly terminated after the complaint. Investigations into their complaints are going on.

In order for certain behaviors to be considered sexual harassment, the harassment must be continuous or severe. A single instance of harassment, for instance, may not count as sexual harassment. However, in cases where a single act has been severe, like rape or assault, it will constitute as sexual harassment. Sexual harassment claims in California are governed both by federal laws as contained in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as well as state laws contained in the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

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