Discrimination in the workplace is prohibited in California under the state’s primary employment and labor statute, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). According to a Los Angeles employment lawyer, it covers not just private businesses, but also public entities, including those that are responsible for operating public schools within a certain county or state. While it is expected for school officials to treat each other fairly within their daily operations, some of them go through the ordeal of being discriminated against and even being harassed because of their protected characteristic.
Such was the case of a former school official who filed a lawsuit against Santa Rosa City Schools, the largest school district in Sonoma County in California. Anastasia Zita, the plaintiff in the lawsuit which she filed last month, alleged that she was wrongfully terminated from her post as assistant superintendent last year after suffering from workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. She named the seven members of the school board, as well as 50 others who are yet to be named, as the defendants in her suit.
According to the suit, the 52-year-old woman worked for the position of assistant superintendent for the said school district, a post she held since 2005. Her main duty is to oversee curriculum and instruction of Santa Rosa’s secondary schools. During her tenure, she experienced various forms of discrimination and harassment; in the lawsuit, she alleged that she was verbally harassed by her immediate superior. Likewise, she was passed over an opportunity for employment advancement due to age and race. She was also not allowed to take a leave of absence from work in order to attend to her ailing mother. The suit even mentioned that other co-workers also suffered maltreatment at the hands of the school officials.
Eventually, Zita was dismissed from her position on June 30, 2013. Then, she filed her complaints with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The lawsuit asserts that she should be paid for the damages she incurred, amounting to not less than $4 million. She is also requesting that all the documents from her personnel file be removed due to their defamatory content. Finally, she is requesting that every district employee be given the right training with regard to the FEHA and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).
Meanwhile, the defendants named in the suit are yet to comment on Zita’s assertions. However, the attorney representing the school district quickly denied her allegations, saying that she “was not discriminated against because of her use of leave ti9me as she originally claimed or because of her gender, race, age or engagement in protected activity as she has more recently.”