Female Air Traffic Controller Claims Subjection to Severe Hostile Work Environment and Sex Harassment While Serving In War Zone Overseas

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On April 22, 2009, Sara Gonzalez, a 26-year old Air Force veteran serving as a civilian air traffic controller in Afghanistan filed a law suit against ITT, a lead defense contractor to the United States Military. The law suit, Case No. BC 12253, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleges that ITT rampantly sexually harassed, discriminated and retaliated against Ms. Gonzalez for refusing to have sex with her supervisors and co-workers in violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). FEHA is a California law enacted to protect its citizenry from such unlawful conduct in their place of work. Among other things, Ms. Gonzalez alleges in her complaint that she was repeatedly told by her supervisor Greg Bee that he needed her to "find (him) some p____", was propositioned for sex by co-workers, locked out of the control tower and forced to climb back in through a window to resume her duties and further degraded and humiliated when her ITT supervisors mailed a box of "sex toys" to her parents in La Puente, California with a threatening and insulting note.

Plaintiff Sara Gonzalez, was expecting that when she agreed to work for ITT as an air traffic controller providing tactical and logistical support to the United States armed forces in Afghanistan, she would be given a further opportunity to serve her country by working in an environment that adhered to the highest standards of professionalism.

On April 22, 2009, Sara Gonzalez, a 26-year old Air Force veteran serving as a civilian air traffic controller in Afghanistan filed a law suit against ITT, a lead defense contractor to the United States Military. The law suit, Case No. BC 12253, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that ITT rampantly sexually harassed, discriminated and retaliated against Ms. Gonzalez for refusing to have sex with her supervisors and co-workers in violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). FEHA is a California law enacted to protect its citizenry from such unlawful conduct in their place of work. Among other things, Ms. Gonzalez alleges in her complaint that she was repeatedly told by her supervisor Greg Bee that he needed her to "find (him) some p____", was propositioned for sex by co-workers, locked out of the control tower and forced to climb back in through a window to resume her duties and further degraded and humiliated when her ITT supervisors mailed a box of "sex toys" to her parents in La Puente, California with a threatening and insulting note.

ITT, an American owned company worth $11.7 billion dollars, provides military support to the United States armed forces in highly dangerous war and combat zones around the globe. As alleged in the Complaint, Ms. Gonzalez ". . . was subjected to a degrading and sexually hostile work environment that was condoned by her employer ITT. At a time when ITT officials and supervisors should have acted professionally with the goal of providing critical support to the U.S. Military, it engaged in reckless and illegal conduct which resembled an out of control college fraternity, instead of a disciplined professional organization."

The lawsuit alleges that as part of a larger pattern and practice of unlawful conduct, ITT condoned and encouraged its employees egregious mistreat Ms. Gonzalez. Ms. Gonzalez's complaint states the following specific allegations:

"Plaintiff Sara Gonzalez, was expecting that when she agreed to work for ITT as an air traffic controller providing tactical and logistical support to the United States armed forces in Afghanistan, she would be given a further opportunity to serve her country by working in an environment that adhered to the highest standards of professionalism."

"As an air traffic controller, Ms. Gonzalez was tasked with harboring into safety multimillion dollar United States Military planes and overseeing the protection of American lives in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, her supervisors at ITT gave short shrift to these obligations and instead treated Ms. Gonzalez as a sex object to be mocked and leered at by her male supervisors and co-workers who repeatedly asked her for sexual favors and made sexually charged remarks to her at a time when she was doing her best to provide support for the US. Military. Not only was such conduct a clear violation of Ms. Gonzalez's right to work in an environment free of sexual harassment and discrimination, it placed the safety of the American military personnel at risk by making it difficult for air traffic controllers such as Ms. Gonzalez to focus on their job duties."

"When Ms. Gonzalez refused the incessant sexual advances of her supervisor and co-workers, she was shunned and humiliated, labeled the 'camp tramp' and a 'slut' and subjected to bogus disciplinary charges. Indeed, in response to her complaints of sexual harassment, Ms. Gonzalez was subjected to a vicious campaign of retaliation, which culminated in her supervisor sending a package of sex toys to her family in California in a final attempt to degrade and humiliate Ms. Gonzalez."

Benjamin Schonbrun, a partner at Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, the law firm representing Ms. Gonzalez said: "This case will shine a bright light on how military contractors working for the U.S. Miliary cut corners in fulfilling their contractual obligations and ignored workplace laws designed to protect American workers from a hostile work environment permeated with sexual harassment and discrimination."        

James DeSimone added, "IIT recruited Ms. Gonzalez in California and promised a professional work environment. It is disgraceful when women are treated with disdain and ridicule unless they willingly participate in a sexually charged work environment. The harm to the employee is all the more insidious when it occurs on a U.S. Military Base in a remote province of Afghanistan. "

A copy of Ms. Gonzalez's Complaint can be found at http://www.losangelesemploymentlawyer.com

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V. James. DeSimone
Schonbrun DeSimone
310 396-0731 ext. 316
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Benjamin Schonbrun
Schonbrun DeSimone
310 396-0731 ext. 325
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