As predicted, San Diego’s City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to deny Mayor Bob Filner’s request that the city cover his legal fees as he battles sexual harassment allegations from eight women. However, Filner’s lawyer said in a letter today that the council might want to think twice about that decision, since his gross behavior is sort of their fault. The city canceled Filner’s mandatory sexual harassment training and never rescheduled, and somehow he didn’t get the training while serving ten terms in the U.S. House of Representatives either. “Had the City provided mandatory sexual harassment training to Mayor Filner,” explains attorney Harvey Berger, Filner’s former communications director “may never have brought her lawsuit.”
While the mayor admitted that he “failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them,” he’s denying the allegations in Irene McCormack Jackson’s lawsuit. “Not all behavior which is offensive is necessarily sexual harassment under California law,” Berger notes. The letter continues:
While, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, many might argue that “you don’t need a weatherperson to tell you which way the wind blows,” and an adult male should not need sexual harassment training, I would point out that in his decades of public service for the people of San Diego as a U.S. Representative, Mayor Filner never received sexual harassment training. This is not an excuse for any inappropriate behavior which may have occurred, but having conducted sexual harassment training scores of times over the years, I have learned that many - if not most - people do not know what is and what is not illegal sexual harassment under California law. There is a very, very good reason for mandatory sexual harassment training; if nothing else, it makes people think about the subject, and how they interact with their fellow employees.
The laws do vary by state, but just in case you spaced out during your company’s hokey sexual harassment video, here are some good guidelines: Forcibly kissing coworkers, asking them to remove their underwear, or putting them in a headlock and whispering sexual comments is generally frowned upon.