LOS ANGELES – A former employee’s lawsuit against a powerful teachers union has begun deliberating with a verdict expected soon.
The former political organizer for United Teachers Los Angeles is suing the organization, alleging she was forced to resign in 2019 because she could no longer tolerate sexual harassment inflicted by two co- workers.
Astine Suleimanyan’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges wrongful termination, sexual harassment, retaliation, gender discrimination, breach of contract, and civil rights violations. Brian McNamara, UTLA’s field and organizing director for field services, and Carl Joseph, the organization’s representation coordinator/housed teachers representative for field services, are also named defendants.
The suit filed Tuesday seeks unspecified damages.
Suleimanyan was hired in September 2015, and her job duties consisted of managing and running various campaigns, overseeing and coordinating phone bank operations, and preparing and facilitating political workshops, the suit states.
Suleimanyan’s annual salary was about $97,000, the suit states.
Throughout her UTLA employment, the 34-year-old Toluca Lake woman was subjected to “severe, pervasive, sexual, derogatory, offensive, physically/verbally abusive and outrageous conduct” by McNamara and Joseph, the suit alleges.
McNamara told the plaintiff she “was hired because she was pretty” and followed her during a work conference, including to the restroom, according to the suit.
He stood close behind her during a job-related dinner and often raised his voice in an “aggressive, threatening and demeaning manner,” toward her, the suit states.
Joseph told Suleimanyan that he wished he was the same age as her because “he wanted to go down on her” and other things “he wanted to do to her,” the suit alleges.
He also told her to “come sit on big papa’s lap” and asked her for her gum so that he could “taste” her, and made make sexual gestures with his tongue toward her, the suit states.
Suleimanyan believes UTLA’s administration knew about the alleged conduct by the male co-workers toward her, yet did nothing to stop it and ratified the behavior by continuing to employ both men, the suit states.
She frequently reported the pair’s alleged harassing, discriminatory and abusive conduct to UTLA management, the suit states. In retaliation for coming forward, UTLA stripped her of her employment duties, refused to accommodate her workplace medical restrictions, and harassed her about her those limitations in violation of her privacy, the suit alleges.
She also alleged the union was in violation of campaign finance laws but didn’t go into detail.
She also alleges she was discriminated against because she was paid less than numerous UTLA male colleagues.
She was forced to resign on Nov. 12, 2019 because she could not continue to put up with the hostile workplace conditions, the suit states.
City News Service contributed to this report.