Friday, July 6, 2018

Former SEIU-UHW Staffer Names Dave Regan in Lawsuit over Sexual Harassment, Discrimination

A former SEIU-UHW staffer has filed a civil lawsuit against SEIU-UHW alleging discrimination, battery, harassment, defamation, and gender violence. The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court in May 2018, names both the union and Marcus Hatcher, a former top union official, as defendants.

Among other allegations, the lawsuit claims that SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan and other top officials made inappropriate comments about women staffers’ looks, their bodies, and their availability/interest in relationships and also engaged in “offensive touching,"

Readers may remember Hatcher.

Last November, he was fired from his job after reportedly having romantic affairs with multiple members of the union’s Executive Board. At the time, he was the Director of SEIU-UHW’s Kaiser Division and a member of the union’s Executive Board and Executive Committee

During the same week, a second SEIU-UHW staffer, Mindy Sturge, also lost her job. Sturge had worked at the union for ten years, was a “Coordinator 3,” and was supervised by Hatcher, according to the lawsuit.

Sturge, who filed the lawsuit, alleges that SEIU-UHW and its top managers violated California law by “fostering a discriminatory workplace” that subjected women staffers and union members to sexual harassment.

Here’s an excerpt from the lawsuit:
“SEIU-UHW fostered a discriminatory workplace… Specifically, Sturge, other women employees, and union members were the subject of inappropriate remarks that address their looks, their bodies, and their availability/interest in relationships. Sturge was also subject to offensive touching, and she and others were discussed in inappropriate texts and comments heard by or related to Sturge. This conduct was engaged in by senior SEIU-UHW managers and directors, including but expressly not limited to Hatcher and [Dave] Regan. This conduct, which was unwelcome, regular, and pervasive, continued throughout Sturge’s employment and was personally experienced or witnessed by Sturge and directly affected her work environment. Sturge (and others) reported some of this inappropriate conduct to SEIU-UHW management when it occurred, but SEIU-UHW took no action to prevent or address this conduct until after Sturge was assaulted by Hatcher in September 2017.”

Why might SEIU-UHW have failed to hold staffers accountable for sexual misconduct?
Dave in his office
The lawsuit seems to offer an answer. Under SEIU-UHW’s policies, all harassment complaints are delivered to Regan.

What about the allegation of battery?

According to the lawsuit, Sturge was allegedly battered by Hatcher during a work meeting on September 28, 2017. “As a direct and proximate result of Hatcher’s actions,” says the lawsuit, “Sturge suffered a head injury and bruising for which she sought medical attention.”
“Sturge was subjected to a hostile work environment created by Hatcher’s inappropriate behavior toward women, as well as other inappropriate behavior by co-workers, including other managers with whom Sturge worked. This behavior included unwanted flirting, pressure to engage in personal relationships, and remarks that were demeaning toward Sturge and other women…
“Despite her reports of this behavior (and other reports of prior unethical behavior by Hatcher and other SEIU-UHW employees), SEIU-UHW took no action to discipline Hatcher or others who created a hostile work environment, nor did SEIU-UHW undertake an investigation of Hatcher’s behavior until Sturge had been assaulted by him. SEIU-UHW had a pattern of accepting such behavior and even went so far as to hire male staff members who had previously been fired from other unions for assaulting and/or harassing women, all of which SEIU-UHW knew or should have known at the time of hiring. One such member was hired to work directly with Sturge and engaged in unwanted and inappropriate behavior with Sturge and women co-workers.”

After Hatcher’s firing, Regan and other SEIU-UHW officials reportedly held a meeting of top union staffers and members of the Executive Committee to discuss sexual misconduct and “the overall culture” inside SEIU-UHW.

The lawsuit alleges that Regan verbally abused and then shunned Sturge following such a meeting. The lawsuit alleges:
“Most recently, Regan verbally abused Sturge in front of co-workers (including other managers) after Sturge expressed concern about Regan’s comments during a meeting that addressed inappropriate workplace conduct. Regan also shunned Sturge after she reported Hatcher’s assault.”

At some point after this incident, Sturge was fired.

Next, Sturge claims, both Hatcher and SEIU-UHW made false and defamatory statements “that impugned her integrity and her morals.” She alleges that Hatcher mounted a campaign of false statements -- some posted on Facebook -- attacking Sturge by saying, for example, she had lied about the assault by Hatcher.

Sturge also alleges SEIU-UHW lied to other staff by saying she’d violated the union’s non-fraternization policy by “engaging in a relationship with another union manager.” According to the lawsuit, “The unprivileged statements made about Sturge were false and defamatory, and were made without any reasonable belief in their truth.”

After she was fired, Sturge filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which issued a right-to-sue letter in April 2018.

Here’s a copy of the lawsuit.