By the time Bob Filner’s lengthy political career collapsed in dramatic fashion, the allegations against the San Diego mayor were a national news story.
Instead of a place of surf and sunshine, San Diego became known as a city where the mayor was not allowed to be alone with women on city property — to protect both their safety and the city’s legal liability. Filner stood accused of treating the women who worked under him and others who did not like sexual objects, propositioning, kissing or groping nearly 20 women – including some he knew had been traumatized by rape while serving in the military.
City Hall staffers, veterans, campaign supporters and ordinary constituents all found themselves subject to Filner’s unprofessional behavior, which ranged from the awkward to the potentially illegal. Until the scandal broke in July, they all kept quiet.
Workplace Harassment: A Question of Power
For several weeks, a different woman came forward seemingly daily to describe unwanted advances from Filner, some dating back several years to his days as a member of Congress.
So why did these women wait until the media circus had begun to share these stories? Filner’s core of supporters asked this often, suggesting some sort of political set-up. But this saga is not about politics. It is about power. The women were afraid to come forward, and for obvious reasons.
As the mayor of America’s eighth-largest city and a former congressman for two decades, Bob Filner was no ordinary citizen. To the thousands of people employed by the city of San Diego, he was the boss. For those in political circles, he wielded substantial influence due to his extensive political career.
Quite simply: Bob Filner could have easily made life difficult for these women if he wished to do so. And they knew it.
“Filner made it very clear how powerful he thought he was,” a college administrator who claimed Filner propositioned her and left a ‘wet, saliva-filled kiss’ on her cheek told KPBS. “He discussed that in the meeting — the kind of authority he had, that he had been pulling strings all over San Diego for many years.”
So the women kept quiet. The exploitation of this power dynamic is why sexual harassment in the workplace — or anywhere else, for that matter — cannot be tolerated.
City Could Be Held Liable
Filner resigned after several days of negotiations with other city officials to reach a settlement. A key issue was who would pay the financial damages that may result if lawsuits brought by are successful. As his employer, the city of San Diego could be held legally responsible for Filner’s actions while on the job. The mayor is also being sued in his individual capacity.
To date, only two women have filed a lawsuit to seek justice for the harassment. One is Irene McCormack Jackson, Filner’s former communications director, who quit after being subjected to an unwanted kiss and numerous sexual advances that belong in the workplace under no circumstances, such as a request from Filner to come to work without underwear.
She was the first woman to publicly come forward and put a name and a face to behavior that had previously been only the subject of rumor.
Pursuing Justice in Civil Court
A criminal investigation of Filner is ongoing. But even if Filner never faces a single criminal charge for his actions, McCormack Jackson may still get the justice she deserves through her civil case.
The civil court system has helped many women hold individuals who have sexually harassed or assaulted them responsible. Sometimes, it’s the only option. Even when such incidents escalate to violent sexual assaults, the odds that the perpetrator will end up behind bars are very slim.
This is why the Pride Law Firm uses the civil court system to get victims – both women and men – the justice they deserve in cases of sexual harassment and assault, whether in the workplace or elsewhere. The outcome of a criminal case, or the fact that there may never be one, does not dictate whether a civil suit can be filed.
Additionally, as Filner’s situation indicates, other people or entities can be held legally responsible in a civil case if they enabled or failed to prevent the incident.
Jessica Pride covers all the bases for her clients to seek the fullest justice possible. She has successfully won justice for sexual assault victims in civil courts, and doing so has become the focus of her legal career. The Pride Law Firm has a strong record in employment cases and has successfully taken on Fortune 500 companies when employees who were sexual harassed while just trying to do their jobs.
If you have been the victim of sexual assault or sexual harassment in or out of the workplace, you should contact Jessica today to talk about your legal options. There is no cost or obligation associated with the call, and Jessica understands the sensitivity of these situations.
Jessica wants to help you seek justice. Call today and speak with her privately at (619) 516-8166.