Former Mono County Superior Court deputy clerk Angela Olson has filed a workplace harassment complaint in U.S. District Court (Eastern District of California) against the State of California, Judicial Council of California, the (AOC) Administrative Office of the Courts, Mono County and Mono County Superior Court Executive Officer Hector Gonzalez.
The 15-page complaint was filed on Nov. 22.
Among the allegations: Knowingly allowing a dangerous, hostile work environment where the plaintiff’s physical safety was continuously in jeopardy; Failure to prevent discrimination and/or harassment from occurring, and; Retaliation against Ms. Olson for asserting her rights as an employee.
The complaint states that Ms. Olson “was caused to suffer and continues to suffer from humiliation, anxiety, severe emotional stress, lost wages and benefits, all to her economic and non-economic damage.”
The defendants actions are characterized as “oppressive and malicious” with an “evil motive to vex.”
When asked for comment Thursday morning, Mr. Gonzalez stated that if what’s in the [filed] complaint is the same as what he saw in an earlier draft version, “It’s most definitely a surprise [to us].”
Gonzalez, who has served as the Court’s Executive Officer for the past four-and-a-half years, said the filing of the complaint was expected, but the content was not. “This [filing] is something she [Olson] has been threatening for some time.”
Despite the fact that the complaint is posted on the U.S. District Court website, with a file date of Nov. 22, Mr. Gonzalez said he has not received it. Nor, he said, has he received the summons which was posted on Nov. 25.
The rough sketch
Ms. Olson was hired by the Superior Court in May, 2010.
In early 2012, she contends that a male employee at the Court began to harass her.
The harassment was not sexual in nature.
When reached for comment this week, Ms. Olson said she felt that her fellow employee became angry when she declined his overtures to spend time together outside of the workplace.
She began to fear for her physical safety.
The complaint states that when Ms. Olson was forced to take medical leave, she was advised to take “evasive and covert actions” to protect herself from her co-worker. The complaint also states that Mr. Gonzalez advised her to arm herself [with a gun].
The Sheet contacted current and former Court employees to ask about the legitimacy of Ms. Olson’s claims.
One person stated bluntly, “Nothing’s exaggerated … It’s totally legit. No one’s gonna get him worked up [the man Olson says harassed her, who still works at the Court). He’s volatile. Everybody’s on guard … but they pretend like nothing ever happened.”
Mr. Gonzalez would not comment as to whether he ever asked Ms. Olson not to come into work, but The Sheet was told by one witness, “Hector didn’t have her [Olson] come into work for a few weeks while he [Hector] was on vacation.” – presumably because he was concerned about the workplace situation.
According to Mr. Gonzalez’s narrative, Ms. Olson just stopped coming to work in December, 2012, and despite repeated requests asking her to return, she declined.
Gonzalez said that Ms. Olson demanded the termination of her fellow employee as condition of her return. As Mr. Gonzalez added, “The ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] is not a tool [to be used] to punish others.”
Gonzalez, who says he formerly practiced law specializing in the area of employment discrimination, said he has consulted with the legal office of the State’s Administrative Office of the Courts every step of the way in this matter, and that he is very careful about following the law with his employees.
In addition, he said Mono County’s Presiding Judge, Stan Eller, has been kept apprised of the case.
The Courts should be held to the highest standard in maintaining labor rights, he said. “The government has to prove it deserves your trust,” he said.
While Mr. Gonzalez said he has not received the summons which was posted on the District Court website, the summons orders Mr. Gonzalez to file a reply within 21 days from the filing date (Dec. 16).
A status conference has been scheduled for February 24, 2014 in Sacramento. Senior Judge Lawrence K. Karlton has been assigned the case. Karlton was appointed to the bench by President Carter in 1979.
Ms. Olson is being represented by Attorney Leo F. Donahue.
In regard to Mono County’s potential liability, Gonzalez said he expects Mono County will ultimately be dropped as a defendant from the complaint, as the workplace of the Superior Court is governed by the state. He didn’t think there would be any financial impact to the County.