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Veterans Home worker files retaliation claim

A former employee of the Veterans Home of California has filed a civil suit against the organization in Napa County Superior court. The woman, who had worked at the group's Yountville facility, is alleging retaliation and sexual harassment among a list of other violations, according to courtroom documents.

The woman claims that the harassment began in December 2006 when a special representative to the Veterans Home made suggestive sexual comments toward her. The harassment continued until the present time, according to the woman's attorneys, as the victim is still employed at the Veterans Home. After the alleged perpetrator of the harassment received specialized training because of his actions, a supervisor joked that the man now knew better techniques for harassing the woman.

Even though the woman reportedly complained to her supervisors about the harassment, none of the organization's higher-ups responded to her claims. She also revealed several other questionable financial practices at the organization, but her concerns were dismissed along with the harassment claims. The woman had questioned whether the group was correctly administering its contracts with outside vendors, among other issues.

The woman claims that her work responsibilities were gradually removed after she began to report the harassment and inappropriate spending at the Veterans Home. She was prohibited from attending important meetings, for example, and faced undue burden when asked to change offices five times since her complaints were filed. She was also required to submit personal medical information when she requested time off for surgery, according to the complaint. The woman had developed a goiter because of the stress at her job, according to her physicians.

Legal documents show that the woman is seeking compensation for economic and non-economic damages. She says she experienced a significant amount of mental anguish and anxiety in connection with the incidents, which has limited her ability to fully complete her job duties.

No one should be forced to work in the environment the woman describes in her lawsuit. Sexual harassment is a very serious offense, and supervisors who receive reports of harassment in the workplace have a duty to ensure that it never recurs. Failure to act on an allegation of sexual harassment, or worse, retaliating against the whistleblower, is a terrible injustice against employees and can result in significant legal penalties.

Source: The Napa Valley Register, "Veterans Home information officer sues Veterans Affairs," Kerana Todorov, Oct. 19, 2012.

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