Local News

Friday, Sep 28 2012 05:20 PM

Sexual harassment lawsuit filed against local company

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed has filed a lawsuit against Bakersfield-based Braun Electric Co. alleging sexual harassment on the part of a manager at the company's Taft and Belridge locations.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Fresno, says the male manager continually subjected female employees to a hostile work environment. According to the lawsuit, the manager made daily remarks about the sexual fantasies he had regarding employees, encouraged them to kiss and touch each other and asked to commit sexual acts with them.

Braun management mostly ignored reports of harassment and failed to stop the manager's conduct, the lawsuit alleges. At least one female employee quit as a result of the harassment.

"Employers cannot stand by idly while workers are besieged by sexual misconduct," EEOC attorney Anna Y. Park said in a news release. "Where employers fail to act, the EEOC will work to ensure the protection of workers in the face of harassment or discrimination on the job."

Dan Klingenberger, attorney for Braun, said the company has not been served with the lawsuit and isn't in a position to respond to specific allegations. He said sexual harassment is not tolerated at Braun.

"We have a strong policy against sexual harassment and would immediately address any complaint," Klingenberger said.

The EEOC's suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the workers who were harassed, as well as injunctive relief to prevent further sexual harassment and discrimination at Braun. The harassment took place since at least August 2010, the suit says.

The lawsuit says Braun received a complaint in 2010 that the manager was harassing female employees, and "failed to take reasonable steps to prevent and/or correct the harassment, but instead permitted the harassment to continue and worsen."

Melissa Barrios, director for the EEOC's Fresno office, said in a news release that workers who report harassment deserve to be taken seriously.

"Managers and supervisors, as representatives of the employer, are required to not only prevent such harassment from surfacing, but also to stop the harassment quickly and effectively," she said.

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