Bob Filner, the mayor of San Diego, Calif., has recently been besieged by a sexual harassment suit filed against him by his former communications director. The City of San Diego is named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit.
Several other women also accused Filner of harassment. Some of the conduct allegedly took place during his five terms in Congress, before he was elected mayor of San Diego last year.
Last week, Filner’s attorney sent a letter to the San Diego City Attorney, asking the city to pay Filner’s legal fees associated with the sexual harassment allegations. In what many perceive as a bold move, Filner’s attorney, Harvey Berger, criticized the city for not providing anti-harassment training to Filner.
Filner argues that because the city did not take all actions to reasonably prevent harassment from occurring, the city may be absolutely liable for any of his alleged misconduct and should pay to defend him.
According to Berger, Filner never received anti-harassment training the entire time he served in Congress from 1993 to December 2012.
Filner claims he was supposed to receive such training from the city after becoming mayor, but the trainer canceled and never rescheduled the training.
“There is very, very good reason for mandatory sexual harassment training,” Berger said. “If nothing else, it makes people think about the subject and how they interact with fellow employees. Had the city provided mandatory sexual harassment training to Mayor Filner, [the plaintiff] may never have brought her lawsuit.”
Other reports describe the situation differently and claim that Filner’s staff canceled the training that the city had set up. The city unanimously voted to refuse the request for legal representation.
Although Filner’s claimed ignorance of the law may not make him exempt; it’s true that the city is obligated to provide anti-harassment training to its supervisors.
California employers with 50 or more employees must provide sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisors in California. Training must take place within six months of hire or promotion and every two years thereafter.
Employers should remember that taking steps to prevent harassment can minimize employer liability for sexual harassment.
2013 is a mandatory sexual harassment prevention training year for most employers. CalChamber's updated California Harassment Prevention training course is now available, and the course is offered in English and Spanish.
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- Offer expires September 30, 2013.