Four UCLA employees in its radiology scheduling department – plaintiffs Jackie Rodriguez, Amber Rose Palega, Krystal Eda and Mayra Miguel – have filed lawsuits against the university and the UC Board of Regents, accusing their workplace supervisor of sexual harassment and UCLA of failing to properly handle abuse complaints. The women have alleged that their supervisor, Martha Mansoor, who is also named in the suit, regularly slapped their buttocks, caressed their thighs, and made sexual comments about their bodies.
The harassment allegedly started in early 2016 and ended in 2017, according to the complaints filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. Mansoor was terminated by the school in July 2017 after they initially came forward earlier that year. One of the women informed another supervisor in December 2016 about the harassment, but Mansoor remained in her job, said attorney Darren Richie, who is representing all four women.
Richie said the women faced retaliation from other supervisors after they filed complaints against Mansoor, which included making them do more work and not allowing them to take time off to see their attorney. The lawsuits also allege that the school's process for filing a claim is not straight-forward enough and is ineffective.
The plaintiffs "feel like their complaints were pushed under the rug" by the school, Richie said, and believe UCLA and the Board did not take them seriously in part because the allegations involved "female-on-female" harassment.
Even when the four women made reports about harassment, the school listed only one of the women as a complainant, while the other three were named as witnesses, according to Richie. Yet, all four are suing for harassment; failure to prevent harassment, discrimination, and retaliation; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and negligent infliction of emotional distress. They are seeking more than $120 million in damages.
The university issued a statement, saying "these allegations are inconsistent with the standards of conduct expected of UCLA staff, faculty and students and we take them very seriously." The school further encouraged members of the campus community to come forward with any concerns they might have about the workplace environment. "We are closely reviewing the details of the lawsuit and intend to respond appropriately," according to the response.
Prior to the Mansoor case, the Gabriel Piterberg, a tenured history professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, faced two allegations of sexual harassment in the past five years. After the first accusation, he was barred from closed-door, one-on-one meetings with students in his office, was told by UCLA not to have romantic relationships with students, paid a fine, and took a one-quarter suspension. However, this half-hearted punishment was not enough for the student, who responded by suing the university, settling in 2016 along with another student for $460,000. Eventually, in March, Piterberg signed a separation agreement from the school.
A UCLA spokesperson said they have changed their policies and procedures since the original settlement with Dr. Piterberg, and "remains firmly committed to increasing transparency on the issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence." Whether this will be proven in the Mansoor case has yet to be determined.