The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is about to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit for $350,000, alleging a manager demanded oral sex and provided a DVD of himself masturbating. This comes on the heels of an online gambling and porn scandal at the agency, and as a top senior manager remains under investigation for city contract abuse.
Former SFPUC employee Paulette Adams-Irving filed a lawsuit in 2011 alleging that during a five-month period in 2009 she "experienced constant sexual harassment and discrimination on the job" from "the all-male upper-level staff and co-workers." She was an operator at the Sunol Water Treatment Plant at the time.
Adams-Irving left her job in March 2010 after filing the complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing; she had worked for the SFPUC since 2005. A lawsuit was subsequently filed in San Francisco Superior Court.
That complaint said that one manager started talking to her about his marriage and one time "ripped his shirt off in front of me," and another time approached her "wearing only a towel." He tried to kiss her in the elevator, asked to have sex and one day left her a DVD titled "Needing P. Adams" that had videos of him masturbating, the complaint said. Another time, she said, the manager called her into his office and asked her for oral sex, and when she refused he threatened to mark her "AWOL" from work.
According to the lawsuit, she was subjected to the "frequent use" of sexually explicit words, offensive touching and observing a male employee watching pornography on work computers, and she was threatened and retaliated against for complaining about the offenses.
The $350,000 settlement is pending before the Board of Supervisors, where approval is expected.
"It changed her entire life. She couldn't continue working there," said Adams-Irving's attorney, Brad Yamauchi. "All I know, she's doing much better these days."
Those named in the lawsuit have since parted ways with the agency. The settlement comes just two months after the agency announced results of an internal investigation stemming from a whistle-blower's complaint about employees using work computers to view pornography and gamble online. Two workers were fired as a result of the probe and 15 others penalized with demotions and suspensions.
"These are each isolated instances and not indicative of a systemic problem," said Tyrone Jue, a spokesman for the SFPUC. "Each case casts a pale shadow over the many staff dedicated to providing the public with reliable, round-the-clock water, power and sewer services."