Sexual Harassment Alleged in Kaiser’s IT Department
ALAMEDA, Calif. (CN) – A Kaiser IT worker claims in Alameda County Superior Court that a male co-worker made lewd comments and gyrated his hips on her.
Patricia Newell sued Kaiser Permanente International, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Albert Torrence for sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and assault and battery. Newell additionally sued Kaiser for failure to take reasonable steps to prevent and/or correct harassment and retaliation.
In her lawsuit, Newell says she has been working in Kaiser’s Information Technology department since 2008. Torrence was transferred to her location in 2009, and around that time began sexually harassing Newell, according to the complaint.
Torrence made comments such as “Hey, Baby, you look fine,” the complaint states.
“Torrence made sexual motions and sexual noises like ‘ohhhhh’ while he looked at plaintiff lustfully; Torrence would lick his lips while looking at plaintiff; he would ask plaintiff if she wanted to play a game of ‘hide the sausage,’” she claims.
In 2015, Newell moved to a different floor and did not have to deal with Torrence as much as before, but they still crossed paths, according to the complaint.
“Plaintiff tried to avoid going to her old workspace, but once or twice a week she saw Torrence, and he continued to make inappropriate comments during those occasions. Torrence told plaintiff he liked her butt and asked her if she was part African American because she had a ‘big fine booty’ or words to that effect. When plaintiff told Torrence to stop, or became upset, he became aggressive and said, ‘I own you. You are in my house. Things go my way,’ or words to that effect,” the complaint states.
Newell contends Torrence was behind a negative performance review she received in early 2016. He had been calling Newell’s lead and/or the operations manager and asking where she was, she claims.
The complaint continues: “On or around March 28, 2016, Torrence approached plaintiff at her cubicle and started rubbing his leg on plaintiff’s leg and gyrating his hips on her. While he did this, he said, ‘you know you want this,’ or words to that effect. Then, Torrence stuck his groin in plaintiff’s face and continued to gyrate his hips. Plaintiff turned around so her back was to him. He then touched her lower back on or around her buttocks and said ‘ohhh I like the red,’ or words to that effect, referring to her underwear which must have been showing at the top of her pants. Plaintiff pushed him away.”
Newell went to her lead’s office, crying, and then left the office, according to the complaint. Newell’s lead reported Torrence’s behavior and Newell filed a complaint with Human Resources, it says. HR assigned an investigator, and in Jan. 2017 Newell received a letter saying her complaints could not be substantiated, it continues. She was given the option to appeal and did, it says.
Newell contends that the operations manager then began to write her up unfairly and informally put her on a performance improvement plan. Although Newell’s lead told her she could work from a different location than Torrence, the operations manager told her she had to go back to her old workspace, according to the complaint.
“Plaintiff has not yet heard from HR about her appeal. Plaintiff believes that her colleagues know about her complaint and has felt hostility from them. Plaintiff continues to be forced to work near Torrence. Additionally, plaintiff has had problems with her log-in information, including her password changing and problems with the IT software, which plaintiff believes are intentional acts in retaliation for her complaint,” the lawsuit states.
Patricia Newell seeks general, special and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, injunctive and declaratory relief, pre-judgment interest, costs of suit and a jury trial. She is represented by Alexis S. McKenna and Elana R. Jacobs of Winer, McKenna & Burritt in Oakland.