Lewis v. City of La Puente, Mayor Charles Klinakis and Robert Lindsey

Abrolat Law pc has filed a lawsuit on behalf of City of La Puente City Council Member Violeta “Vi” Lewis for violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, including sexual harassment, retaliation and assault. The case is: Lewis v. City of La Puente, Charles Klinakis, et al., Case No. 21STCV18841. 

About the case.

Plaintiff, a City of La Puente Council Member, contends that City Manager Robert Lindsey subjected her to sexual harassment including seeking a sexual relationship, making sexual comments and leering. Because Plaintiff objected to the sexual harassment and reported it, the lawsuit states, the City retaliated against Plaintiff, including Mayor Charles Klinakis excluding Plaintiff from Council meetings, even though the voters re-elected her in November 2020.

Why is this important?

By readily embracing the Me Too Movement, society has made clear that the days of blaming and destroying the career of the sexual harassment victims while protecting the sexual harassers are over. Society now insists that the workplace be free from sexual harassment, that victims be permitted to report sexual harassment without facing retaliation and that sexual harassers be held accountable.

This lawsuit shows an example of sexual harassment pre-Me Too – punishing the victim for complaining and taking no action against the harasser, as if the Me Too Movement never happened.

As a result of bringing her sexual harassment complaint to the City, the action says, Mayor Klinakis and the City have punished Plaintiff. For example, Mayor Klinakis disbanded Plaintiff’s communications committee and refused to convene other committees that Plaintiff serves, claims the suit, including Public Health and Code Enforcement. The suit continues that Klinakis also improperly disclosed the investigation to third parties and told community members “he was going to get rid” of Plaintiff.

By contrast, Klinakis has protected the sexual harasser, says the action, and Lindsey has suffered no repercussions as a result of his sexual harassment. Instead, continues the suit, Lindsey still enjoys his position with the City, where he openly continues his retaliation against Plaintiff. Indeed, since Plaintiff told Lindsey to stop sexually harassing her in April 2020, he has not spoken to Plaintiff since, even though work for the City requires such communication, all with Klinakis’ and the City’s blessing and to the detriment of the voters.

In sum, the action claims:  Klinakis and the City are sending a clear – but dangerous – message:

If you are subjected to sexual harassment, then stay silent or we will punish you for speaking out. If you engage in sexual harassment, then we will protect you against complaints, and will join with you to retaliate against the victim.

Our society cannot allow the City to embrace this message. Stand up for the Me Too Movement and insist on the City following the law.

What are the allegations against City of La Puente?

Immediately after the City hired City Manager Lindsey, Lindsey began sexually harassing Plaintiff, including name-calling, verbal abuse, leering, and lewd comments, the suit claims, because Plaintiff would not participate in a romantic relationship with Lindsey.

When Plaintiff objected to Lindsey and requested that he stop his sexual harassment, Lindsey began a course of retaliation, the action alleges. For example, Lindsey verbally attacked Plaintiff, screaming at her and stabbing his finger at her face, placing her in immediate fear for her physical safety, as Mayor Klinakis stood watching the attack, the suit claims.

After Plaintiff’s internal complaint to the City Attorney, Klinakis joined in the retaliation against Plaintiff, including removing Plaintiff’s job duties, refusing to give her information about City business that she was entitled to, excluding her from City Council meetings, and telling others he was going to get rid of Plaintiff, the suit asserts. Additional allegations show there were also robo-calls using false attacks against Plaintiff during the election to try to sway voters away from Plaintiff.

The City refused to properly investigate, strung the investigation along for five months and then took no corrective measures, according to the action. Instead, the City swept the sexual harassment under the carpet, the suit states, and has allowed the retaliation against Plaintiff to continue unabated and continues to this day.

What is the goal?

The goal is to get the City to comply with and enforce our employment laws, including those laws that prohibit blaming the victim for sexual harassment and require corrective action against the sexual harasser.

Given the City’s refusal to properly investigate and take corrective action, Plaintiff is asking the City to make the following commitments:

  • Suspend Klinakis from his position with the City until he passes appropriate sexual harassment and retaliation training.
  • Remove Lindsey from his City Manager position.
  • Cease all retaliation against Plaintiff, including to return Plaintiff to all of her City Council member responsibilities, including committees and allow her to return to City Council meetings.
  • Commit to yearly sexual harassment training for all employees that complies with legal requirements.
  • Commit to adopting an anti-retaliation protection procedure so that if an employee complains to HR, any adverse employment actions against that employee are evaluated for retaliation.
  • Commit to having a neutral third-party complaint hotline that includes neutral investigation and corrective action where employees can file complaints without retaliation.

What can I do?

Help us shine a spotlight on the City of La Puente’s violation of sexual harassment law and ask them to take responsibility and make corrections. To achieve this goal, it is important that this information be circulated to the public.

  1. Visit Plaintiff’s Facebook Page.

Please visit Plaintiff’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/vote4vi/?ref=page_internal. Feel free to leave a comment, forward the link to other community members or otherwise show your support.

  1. Sign Our Petition.

Please review our Petition entitled Mayor Klinakis: Confront Sexual Harassment, Assault and other lawlessness at City Hall at: MoveOn. If you, too, feel time is up for blaming sexual harassment victims and protecting the harasser, please sign our petition and leave comments as to why this is important to you.

  1. Send City of La Puente an Email.

The City of La Puente has an email address where community members can submit comments for the City Council to consider: Submit a comment here.  Please consider sending your thoughts or comments directly to the City Council. Comments can also be submitted on the city’s website here.