A former Dunwoody Police Department officer sued the city and officials over sexual harassment claims on July 7th. The lawsuit alleges that former Lt. Fidel Espinoza demanded sexual talks and images in exchange for work benefits.
Lawsuit Seeks $500,000 in Compensation
The plaintiff, Roger Halstead, is seeking $500,000 in addition to back pay and punitive damages in the lawsuit filed in DeKalb County Superior Court, according to his lawyer, Laura Austin. The city, Espinoza, City Manager Eric Linton, City Clerk Sharon Lowery, Police Chief Billy Grogan, Mayor Lynn Deutsch, city Human Resource Director Nicole Stojka, and police Maj. Oliver Fladrich, who oversees DPD’s patrol division are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that Espinoza’s local phone is disconnected and his whereabouts are unknown. However, there is a good chance that he is in Palm Beach County, Florida.
City is Reviewing the Complaint
Jennifer Boettcher, city spokesperson, stated that the city was still looking into the sexual harassment complaint. The city will likely file a response based on the July 2nd investigative report since the lawsuit was largely based on an intent-to-sue notice filed by Halstead.
The report ruled that improper sexual messages were sent by Espinoza, but not with the intent to harass or coerce Halstead. Boettcher referred to statements from Deutsch and Grogan that claim that the report speaks for itself in terms of the complaint.
Austin claimed that she received an email from the city’s attorney that said there was no intention of negotiations at the moment. She further stated that this was a sad day indeed for the law enforcement department that was trying to uphold this deplorable conduct with its egregious cover-up.
Austin is representing two other complainants that have filed an intent-to-sue notice with the city.
Understanding Sexual Harassment Laws in Florida
Sexual harassment is defined as conduct that goes well beyond unsolicited or improper sexual contact between two people at the workplace. Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to sexual jokes, advances, teasing, unwanted exposure to body parts and material of sexual nature that is not wanted by an employee. It is important to consult with a sexual harassment lawyer immediately to understand rights and options available.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Florida Civil Rights Act, and various local laws govern sexual harassment in Florida. An employer should have at least 15 employees to fall under the purview of Title VII or the Florida Civil Rights Act. However, local laws may require fewer employees, which deems it necessary to speak with a sexual harassment attorney.