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Davis, California

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Documents reveal 19 substantiated cases of employee sexual misconduct at UC Davis between 2016–18

In some cases, harassment, assault spans months or even years

CW: Sexual assault, violence, harassment

Last fall, UC Davis officials from Strategic Communications sent The California Aggie a total of 19 cases representing all substantiated complaints of UC Davis employees found to be in violation of the Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment (SVSH) Policy between the time period of 2016–18. The case reports and summaries totalled just under 700 pages and each case report was heavily redacted. The Aggie spoke with university officials in the Strategic Communications and the Public Records Office as well as the university’s Title IX officer in relation to the cases and combed through each and every page to summarize the findings of each case.

These documents were released upon the submission of a public records request for Title IX documents from at least six news media outlets. Instead of releasing the documents publicly itself on the UC Davis website, for instance, the Director of News and Media Relations Melissa Blouin said the university decided to send the documents to The Aggie as a courtesy while also responding to the parties that submitted the initial request.

Each case includes a “respondent,” the accused, and either one or multiple “complainants,” the accuser(s). The names of the respondents in the initially-released 14 cases were redacted, but the names of the respondents in the last five cases were included. The university investigator assigned to each case also interviewed witnesses with relevant knowledge of the situations at hand.

Even in cases of misconduct substantiated by university findings, if the respondent is not a “high-level public official or does not hold a special position of trust in relation to the complainant,” disclosing their identity would “constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” according to the media response letter from the university sent alongside the cases.

In most, if not all, of these cases, the respondents repeatedly downplayed and defended their actions, sometimes claiming that cultural differences were an explanation for their behavior — such as in the case of former Food and Sensory Science Professor Michael O’Mahony who was found to have engaged in a pattern of misconduct and said Americans don’t “get” irony when asked about his actions, or in the case of current Symphony Conductor Christian Baldini who claimed his misconduct toward a student was the result of his Argentinian heritage or of an unnamed male professor who said his kiss on the cheek of a female student could be chalked up to custom.

Additionally, the complainants in these cases frequently expressed fear of retaliation if they reported. The timeframe of harassment reported by the complainants ranged from one incident to months or even years of misconduct.

Wendi Delmendo, the UC Davis chief compliance and Title IX officer, said the university is participating in outreach efforts and has the Center for Advocacy, Resources and Education as a means to help campus community members feel safe coming forward to talk about sexual harassment or assault. In the 2016–17 year, the university received 105 reports of sexual violence while in the 2017–18 year, there was a total of 344 complaints sexual harassment, sexual violence or other prohibited behavior resolved through informal resolutions or formal investigations.

Corrective action for each respondent was determined on a case-by-case basis. While some individuals who violated SVSH policy were terminated from their position or resigned in lieu of intended termination, others received lesser actions, such as in case 170215 in which a respondent who was found to have harassed a co-worker from 2013–17 received a 15-day suspension without pay.

Delmendo said corrective action is influenced by different policies that relate to staff members versus faculty members and whether the employees are union or non-union members. During this specific 2016–18 time period, there were also policy changes stemming from legal developments as well as a systemwide consultations.

When asked how she thought the release of these cases would impact the university’s image, Delmendo said she hoped the impact would be positive, “to show the university takes these things seriously, and when we receive these reports we look into them and when they are substantiated we take corrective action.”

The following are 19 different cases in which complaints brought against UC Davis employees between 2016–2018 concerning sexual harassment, assault and/or violence were found to be substantiated through a university investigation. The Aggie has summarized each report for length and clarity. All of the quotes are taken from official case documents.

Each case no. is hyperlinked with the entirety of the official case document as released by the university to The Aggie.

Professor’s 30-plus years of misconduct

Case No.: 160142

Respondent: Professor Michael O’Mahony

Outcome: Resigned in lieu of intended termination

Michael O’Mahony, a professor at UC Davis, was alleged of three violations of university policy, with the first allegation being substantiated as a violation of both SVSH policy and of the Faculty Code of Conduct. The university substantiated the allegation that O’Mahony had made “an unwelcome and demeaning comment of a sexual nature” to a graduate student in April of 2016.

According to several sources interviewed in relation to the investigation, O’Mahony had a well-known reputation and history of saying “politically incorrect” comments, “dating back to at least the late 1980s.One source stated that a female friend had requested their presence at a meeting with O’Mahony in the early 80s “because she was uncomfortable with things he had said to her.”

O’Mahony had a well-known reputation and history of saying “politically incorrect” comments, “dating back to at least the late 1980s.

“There is a long history of complaints regarding O’Mahony’s conduct and previous substantiated allegations of sexual harassment, indicating a pattern,” the university concluded. “His behavior demonstrates either an inability or unwillingness to cease introducing subjects of a sexual nature into his interactions with students.”

The earliest sexual harassment complaints filed against O’Mahony appear to be from 2007, during which time he reportedly passed around pornographic cartoons in a class he was teaching. In 2011, he made a comment alluding to students offering up sex in return for better grades.

In 2013, he was found to have sexually harassed a staff member, leading to a temporary reduction in his salary. That same year, he made a student uncomfortable after calling her “gorgeous” and “exotic.” Also in 2013, he made a comment insinuating that UC students “put out” for good grades.

He was counseled in 2016 after an allegation regarding inappropriate touching.

As a result of the investigation, O’Mahony resigned in lieu of termination on Feb. 28, 2017.

Professor sexually harassed student, later threatened her

Case No.: 160045

Respondent: Professor Nilesh Gaikwad

Outcome: Resigned in lieu of intended termination

The complainant in this case is a graduate student who received unwanted comments about her appearance, unwanted gifts and a hug and kiss on the cheek from Nilesh Gaikwad, a former UC Davis nutrition and environmental toxicology associate professor, whose lab she worked in. The student was retaliated against when she returned the gift to Gaikwad — she underwent private and public criticism, received threatening comments and had her projects assigned to other people.

The sexual harassment began in 2015 with an invasion of personal space — Gaikwad reached over the student and used her computer mouse with her hand still on it. Gaikwad disputed this account, instead saying it was the student who was inappropriately close to him on multiple occasions and who touched him inappropriately.

Gaikwad wrote in an unspecified letter that the student “is cute,” and later denied that he wrote this. The student said Gaikwad inappropriately hugged her, pressed his body against hers and held her for an extended period of time.

She was later gifted a purse containing chocolates from Gaikwad, which she later returned to him through a co-worker. The co-worker placed it on Gaikwad’s desk with a note saying the student “felt it was inappropriate” and requested that he “respect her personal space.” Gaikwad then crumpled the note and threw both it and the purse into the trash.

Gaikwad denied ever giving the student a gift, claiming that he bought the purse on clearance, had it lying around in his car and said the student misinterpreted the gesture as a gift.

After this, there was another incident in which the student described being forcefully hugged and restrained by Gaikwad while the two were both working on a piece of broken lab equipment.

“He held on to me, I put my arms down and I tried to get away but he would not let go, as I was trying to get away and pulling back, he pulled in and kissed my cheek,” the complainant said in the case report. “I felt disgusted, uncomfortable and realized that he was definitely not hugging me professionally.”

Gaikwad denied this account, saying he “was sweating and does not see how she could view the hug as romantic.” He wrote in a response to the complainant that it was customary to give someone you know well a kiss on the cheek when hugging them.

The student also described a final incident where Gaikwad showed her a PowerPoint slide which contained the word “CuTe.” He dismissed this, saying he was showing her an organization’s promotional material.

Gaikwad was found to have engaged in unwanted sexual conduct and it was found that the workplace became “intimidating and offensive as a result of” his actions. It was also found that Gaikwad’s actions after all of the alleged harassment took place constituted retaliation, such as when he publicly criticized her in a lab meeting.

Gaikwad was found to have violated the Faculty Code of Conduct and University Sexual Harassment policies. While what appears to be Gaikwad’s professional website claims that he “left his tenure track professor position at UC Davis to start worlds (sic) first steroidomics company,” he actually resigned from his position in lieu of intended termination.

Four employees report postdoc for unwelcome sexual misconduct

Case No.: 170080

Respondent: George Chenaux, former postdoctoral researcher

Outcome: Early termination

Four employees came forward in February of 2017 to report “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” from George Chenaux, a former postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis, occurring over the prior 18-month period.

The university substantiated allegations from three of the complainants, but one of the substantiated allegations was found not to be in violation of SVSH policy.

“Complainant 2” reported that Chenaux pushed the complainant against a wall and rubbed his body against hers. He only stopped once she elbowed him in the face. “Complainant 3,” a different individual in the case, described Chenaux as her superior, reported that he frequently touched her without her consent over a period of 18 months despite being told not to on numerous occasions.

He only stopped once she elbowed him in the face.

Complainant 2 also described Chenaux as more senior than her and a fellow colleague whom she has a strictly professional relationship with. In January of 2016, however, at a celebratory event, Chenaux was drinking in excess and began touching her inappropriately. A little while later, after the complainant purposefully evaded Chenaux, he found her, pressed her against a wall and grinded on her. She told him to stop, but eventually had to use force to get him to move away.

Complainant 3 said Chenaux would frequently place his hands on her hips and physically move her to the side instead of asking her to move. Though she asked him to stop, he would just laugh in response.

On one occasion, Chenaux requested to speak with Complainant 3 alone. Though she did not feel comfortable doing so, she felt she had to speak with him because he was her superior. Chenaux accused her of turning him in and became “very hostile” and “berated her.” She left this meeting in tears.

“It was an obvious and brazen move to intimidate me and make me feel silent,” she said in the report.

Ultimately, University Investigator Carl L. Reed concluded Chenaux committed sexual violence against Complainant 2 and sexually harassed Complainant 3. Chenaux was subject to a termination of his postdoc appointment earlier than the previously-intended termination of his position.

Six employees report colleague for misconduct at UC Davis hospital

Case No.: 170385

Respondent: Clinical Nurse Antonio Martinez

Outcome: Resigned in lieu of intended termination

This case involves six complainants who alleged their coworker, Antonio Martinez, a clinical nurse, engaged in unwelcome behavior while they worked together at UC Davis hospital.

In September of 2017, “Complainant 4” informed a manager that Martinez had touched her inappropriately on a number of occasions. After an official from Harassment & Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program (HDAPP) followed up with the managers of the employees in this case, six complainants emerged.

All six of the complainant’s reports were substantiated and a university investigator determined that the reports given by Complainants 3, 4, 5 and 6 of Martinez’s behavior violated SVSH policy. Martinez engaged in inappropriate touching, unwelcome physical conduct, along with invading personal space and using inappropriate and unwelcome language of a sexual nature.

“Complainant 3” said at first she thought Martinez’s constant attention was nice — he walked her to her car, offered to pay for meals and brought her blankets so she could take a nap — but she soon became uncomfortable and began parking farther away so he wouldn’t follow her out to her car. She told Martinez to stop because it was making her uncomfortable, but he laughed in response as if “it was all a joke.” Between 2008–10, Complainant 3 said this behavior occurred on a daily basis.

“The more she told him to stop, the more [he] seemed to touch her,” the case states.

In 2012, Complainant 3 moved to a managerial position. Around 2016, Martinez was banned from working on the complainant’s unit “because of his conduct towards women co-workers.” She believed Martinez targeted a specific group of women — she, along with Complainant 1 and 2, are all young, married women. Complainant 3 also said Martinez is known as “the pervert” at work and is around 60 years old although he tells people he is 35.

Complainant 3 also said Martinez mentioned a previous sexual harassment case lodged against him which his lawyer took care of.

The university investigator asked Martinez about a previous sexual harassment case during the investigation. He denied anything of the sort, even after he was shown an official Letter of Counseling and Letter of Warning concerning his sexual harassment of another individual who was not one of the six complainants in this case. He denied ever being told “there is no touching in the workplace” and said he did not recall being told by the sexual harassment analyst not to engage in behaviors such as “tickling, massages and hugging.”

Complainant 4, 5 and 6 said after they began to fully rebuff Martinez’s advancements, he began completely ignoring them at work. Martinez, a senior nurse, would no longer offer either his expertise or help at work, and became hostile and aggressive and encouraged others to reprimand them.

Complainant 5 stated that Martinez cornered her in an unconscious patient’s room and slapped her butt.

After a complaint against Martinez was filed by the complainants in this case, he continued working during the investigation. This made many of the complainants uncomfortable to the point of missing work to avoid him.

“The fact that [he] is still working is preposterous,” Complainant 4 told university investigators. “I don’t know that I would have made the decision to come forward knowing what I know now.”

Complainant 5, also upset with the way the case had been handled — and the fact she still had to work with Martinez — said, “I will never come forward again.”

In response, Martinez told university investigators he believed that all of the individuals who came forward with allegations against him conspired together and “fabricated” the sexual harassment complaints.

In addition to the six complainants, a number of other witnesses interviewed as part of this investigation, including other nurses, said Martinez had, at one point, made them feel uncomfortable, touched them inappropriately or acknowledged that they had witnessed him touching others inappropriately.

Ultimately, Reed, the aforementioned university investigator, and the Chancellor’s Legal Fellow Sylvia E. Cunningham concluded Martinez created a hostile work environment for some of his colleagues, engaged in sexual harassment and made both the individuals he harassed uncomfortable as well as those who witnessed the harassment. As a result, Martinez resigned in lieu of intended termination.

Conductor who engaged in misconduct with student returns to position

Case No.: 170177

Respondent: Christian Baldini, symphony conductor

Outcome: Returned to position after quarter-long suspension

In place of attaching a case report, university officials sent The Aggie a link to The Sacramento Bee’s article detailing the decision by UC Davis officials to place Christian Baldini, who still serves as conductor of the university’s Symphony Orchestra, on unpaid administrative leave in late 2017.

Baldini was found to have engaged in misconduct of a sexual nature directed toward an undergraduate student who subsequently left the university because of the incident.

Baldini “engaged in conduct that included touching this student’s hands and shoulder, dancing with her alone (including touching her waist and spinning her, leading to her buttocks being held against [his] body), and kissing this student’s cheek,” according to the letter of censure which was sent to The Aggie by university officials in 2018.

At this time, The Aggie reported that the letter was not placed in Baldini’s academic review file.

In a prepared statement sent to The Aggie via email in 2018, Baldini said that although “nothing sexual was intended” he deeply regretted “that over time this was perceived by [the] student in such a way.” He also referenced his Argentinian heritage as justification for his actions.

“My faults are failing to recognize that my behavior could have a reaction in her that was unintended,” the statement read. “I feel contrite and remorseful that one of my students would have felt this way by something I did, and I deeply apologize for any stress and pain this may have caused.”

Baldini was placed on unpaid academic leave during Winter Quarter 2018 and has since returned to his position.

Employee found to be “stalking” student

Case No.: 170436

Respondent: University employee, name redacted

Outcome: Terminated from position

The complainant in this case is a student who moved into a dorm building in fall of 2017. The respondent in this case is a university employee who was lofting beds in student housing when he met the complainant. The complainant thanked him for lofting her bed, and he began to talk with her for half an hour, complimenting her smile.

The complainant would see the respondent around her dorm building and in the dining commons and say hello. In October of 2017, she received a Facebook friend request from him and was unsure how he found her, as he did not know her last name. He also messaged her and told her she could talk to him at any time.

In mid-October, the respondent began leaving post-it notes on the complainant’s bedroom door in her dorm. She reflected on their previous interactions and became uncomfortable with his prior actions. She told university officials she felt freaked out because she knew he had access to her dorm room.

The complainant reported his behavior to university officials and, in a meeting with his supervisors, the respondent said his behavior wasn’t meant to be predatory, and “he was just friendly.” In an interview related to the investigation, however, the respondent admitted he was not friends with any other students on Facebook and had not left notes for other students.

Video evidence shows the respondent visited the residence hall where the complainant lives “numerous times” — approximately seven of the 12 days during the two-and-a-half week period between move-in day and the day the respondent was ultimately placed on leave.

“Respondent acknowledged that he did not have work orders for projects in that building at that time,” the report states, adding that there was no work-related reason why he would go to the upstairs floor of the residence hall the complainant lives on, yet he did on at least five occasions during this time frame.

One of the witnesses interviewed by the university investigator said the respondent does occasionally check out young girls, and will sometimes follow them a short distance or start chatting with them and has made comments such as, “she’s hot.”

This university investigation found the respondent’s conduct met the definition of stalking, his conduct created an intimidating and offensive environment for the complainant, and he ultimately violated the university’s sexual harassment policy.

The investigation also concluded the respondent’s conduct was sexual or romantic in nature. When asked how he would feel if his daughter were in the complainant’s situation, the respondent said he would be upset.

When asked how he would feel if his daughter were in the complainant’s situation, the respondent said he would be upset.

“That statement supports that he understood his behavior reasonably appeared romantic of sexual in motivation,” the report states.

Although the university investigator explicitly stated it did not seem the respondent’s behavior was meant to hurt or frighten the complainant, because of his persistence in visiting her place of residence without any business being there, a “reasonable person” in the complainant’s position would fear for their safety and experience emotional distress.

Ultimately, the respondent was terminated from his position as a UC Davis staff member.

Volunteer coach assaulted student

Case No.: 150331

Respondent: Unnamed volunteer coach

Outcome: Terminated from position

This case, lodged by a UC Davis student against a volunteer coach for a club sports team, regards a series of incidents, including one in which the coach, the respondent in the case, had inappropriately touched the student, the complainant in the case, “by attempting to put his hand in her pants without her consent after he insisted on staying the night in her apartment” in May of 2014.

The incident was brought to Delmendo on Nov. 1, 2015. As part of the university’s investigation, 13 witnesses were interviewed over a three-month period.

In May of 2014, the complainant went out drinking with members of her sports club. After consuming several beers, the complainant became “relatively intoxicated,” and she and the respondent went to her home, where he asked to be let in to use her bathroom. He ended up staying and talking with the complaint about her past relationships.

He told her that she “shouldn’t be alone and he would stay over,” at which point the complainant retrieved a sleeping bag and told him he could sleep on the floor beside her bed. The respondent said he couldn’t sleep and said she should lay down beside him. Feeling intimidated and not knowing what do do, she joined him on the floor.

“Soon after she laid down next to [redacted], he began touching her,” according to the case report. “He groped her chest and then he put his hand down her pants and touched her vagina. At that point [redacted] said she pushed him away, got up from the floor and said, ‘Stop. Don’t touch me.’ […] He left when she left for class the next morning.”

There was an email exchange between the two soon after the incident. In one of the complainant’s emails to the respondent, she stated: “without my consent nor knowledge (you) decided to act upon that assumption […] I feel upset and uneasy. What happened was highly inappropriate because you are my [redacted] teacher […] I opened up because I believed to be safe with you.”

The complainant decided to leave the club after what happened, and then later left UC Davis entirely. In response, the respondent denied being able to even recognize the complainant, even “if she was in the room right now.” He denied ever touching her genitals and claimed he did not remember going to her apartment.

When shown the email exchange between the two of them, he said, “Wow. I do not recall having this conversation with her […] She’s saying I groped her? I don’t do anything like that. Not one kid in the club would say I groped them.”

Bruce H. Hupe, the investigations coordinator for this case, wrote in the report that “email exchanges with [redacted] the day after the alleged assault provides convincing evidence that what she alleges happened did in fact occur and serves to undermine his credibility.”

The university issued the respondent three violations of policy: his conduct “unreasonably interfered” with the complainant’s education and “created an intimidating, hostile, and offensive learning environment in violation of the University’s Sexual Harassment policy in place at the time”; his ‘couch-surfing’ at the complainant’s home was “unusual and inappropriate,” constituting a behavior that could be expected to “detract from the reputation of the University” and the respondent was found to have sexually harassed the complainant.

As a result of the investigation, the respondent was terminated from his position.

Six undergraduate student interns issue complaints of misconduct

Case No.: 160127

Respondent: Unnamed staff member

Outcome: Resigned from his position

This investigation, begun in May of 2016 and conducted by Ellis Buehler Makus LLP, regards six undergraduates students, all of whom were interns and all of whom filed complaints with the university alleging that the respondent in the case engaged in “conduct of a sexual nature with student interns.”

Zee Syed, who prepared the university’s report, affirmed that the respondent had engaged in “conduct of a sexual nature that interns, faculty, and staff members found offensive. He made sexual jokes and innuendo, watched videos containing sexual content, and organized performances on campus that were sexual in nature.”

Syed also affirmed that the respondent’s conduct violated university policies prohibiting sexual harassment, given that conduct included “making sexual jokes and comments, watching videos of a sexual nature, and arranging performances at UCD [redacted] Day that were laced with sexual innuendo. The conduct was offensive to reasonable people.”

As part of the investigation, 16 individuals were interviewed in May and June of 2016. According to one account, the source interviewed “found these [sexual] jokes embarrassing, but reluctantly participated in them because she did not know how to react.” The source also said that the interns favored by the respondent “were also the ones who made sexual jokes most frequently.”

“He was looking at the interns bodies and evaluating them,” one source said, adding that the respondent “often prefaced comments by saying ‘I don’t want to go to sexual harassment training again,’ implying that he had been to training because of the comments he made in the past.”

An eighth account from a source who also recounted inappropriate comments made by the respondent said she feared that if she reported the conduct, the contract for her position would not be renewed.

Ultimately, the university’s investigation substantiated the allegation that the respondent had made and encouraged interns to make sexual comments and jokes. The university did not substantiate the claim made by the respondent that the allegations made against him were an attempt to get him in trouble because they had a personal relationship with “a former intern who previously made a complaint against him.”

The respondent also allegedly put on “raunchy” videos and movies for the interns, which contained “sexual content.” The investigation substantiated the claim that the respondent played or allowed interns to play a video titled “[Redacted] Can’t Stop Thinking About Sex.” One intern, who felt uncomfortable watching one of these videos, continued watching “because it was the start of her internship and she did not feel comfortable making a scene.”

The investigation also found that the respondent had, on one occasion, given the complainant’s phone number out, leading to harassment.

A separate incident involves a “sexually-laced performance” that likely occurred at Picnic Day 2015, though the title of the event appears in the case documents as [Redacted] Day 2015. One intern said they saw the respondent ask another intern “to find some male friend who would conduct a strip show during the [redacted] demonstration.” According to the same account, “The men were reluctant to participate and [redacted] told them he would provide them with alcohol to boost their courage.”

Two additional allegations against the respondent are redacted in their entirety, as are six documents, included because they contained information relevant to the case. In the 64-page case document, pages 44 through 63 are entirely redacted — on page 64, the only non-redacted content is the conclusion which states, “This Report concludes the investigation,” and Syed’s signature.

The respondent was ultimately found to have “engaged in conduct that violated UCD’s Sexual Violence and exual Harassment policies.” Based on a on “preponderance of evidence,” the respondent engaged in unwelcome and offensive conduct of a sexual nature that impacted learning and work environments.

As a result of the investigation, the respondent resigned from his position.

Faculty member accused of misconduct retaliated after rejection

Case No.: 160131

Respondent: Unnamed faculty member

Outcome: Nine-month monetary sanction, not reappointed

The respondent in this case was found to have engaged in “unwanted touching” and told the complainant in this case he had “developed feelings for her.” After the complainant rejected his advances, the respondent “treated her differently, including denigrating her to others.”

The investigation began in June of 2016 and ended that September. The case’s complainant describes incidents that occured in June of 2015, including multiple embraces instigated by the respondent. At one work party, the respondent told the complainant he felt “really good with her” and, in response, she “managed to get out of the situation by indicating she felt a paternal connection to him.”

About two weeks later, another hugging incident occurred. The complainant “acted cold to stop the embrace.” The respondent apologized via text. With the help of a second party, the complainant drafted a response in which she stated that she thought of him “as a father-figure, and they needed to keep the relationship professional.” The second party told the complainant to report the behavior, but she did not want to.

The following Monday, the respondent told the complainant “he had feeling for her and wanted to treat her like a daughter, but couldn’t help but see her as attractive […] [and] that she needed to be careful around him because he would have trouble controlling his emotions.” This is when the witness first noticed the respondent “was treating her differently, and felt he was retaliating for her rejection of him.”

the respondent told the complainant “he had feeling for her and wanted to treat her like a daughter, but couldn’t help but see her as attractive […] [and] that she needed to be careful around him because he would have trouble controlling his emotions.”

The complainant found that this situation impacted the work environment, a lab, finding “it stressful to be there.”

One outside source interviewed as part of the investigation said the respondent treated

“women differently in general, as though they are below him.”

“It seems like if a women questions him or does something he doesn’t like, he will target them for poor treatment,” the source said.

A fourth source who, given her position, “was required by policy to report the behavior,” was unhappy with how the department handled the case initially, as the lab became a hostile workplace.

A fifth witness, who is unidentified but appears to be the respondent, denied that he shared romantic feelings, and said he never gave the complainant compliments on her appearance and said the complainant was resistant to criticism, which frustrated him.

The respondent was found to be in violation of the Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence policy and the Faculty Code of Conduct. As a result of the investigation, the respondent received a nine-month monetary sanction and did not receive a reappointment.

Supervisor terminated after sexually harassing employee

Case No.: 160405

Respondent: Unnamed supervisor

Outcome: Terminated from position

The respondent in this case, a supervisor of the complainant, “made inappropriate comments of [a] sexual and flirtatious nature,” including suggesting sexual favors in return for money, in October of 2016 and again that December, which were found to have violated the University’s Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy.

“Complainant stated [it is] uncomfortable for her at work because she does not want to say anything in front of Respondent that could possibly open up to a ‘joke’ turned sexual ‘insinuation,’” the case states. “Complainant stated she hopes the complaint results in her not feeling uncomfortable at work in the future.”

“Complainant stated she hopes the complaint results in her not feeling uncomfortable at work in the future.”

The complainant made a report to the assistant manager about the second incident, which the assistant manager was required to report. The respondent completely denied either incidents occurred, according to the report, calling it “a lie, a fabrication” and claiming the complainant wanted to get him in trouble. He also said he does “not have time for the stuff that I am being accused of saying.”

With regard to another incident where the respondent called another person in the workplace “baby girl,” he said that he had taken measures to learn to not repeat such behaviors, such as taking cultural awareness classes and online sexual harassment training. He used this as reasoning for why he would not have done what he was alleged to have done by the complainant.

The investigator ultimately concluded that “Respondent engaged in sexual harassment in violation of University of California’s Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy.”

As a result of the investigation, the respondent was terminated from his position.

Employee sexually harassed, verbally assaulted by faculty member

Case No.: 170024

Respondent: Unnamed faculty member

Outcome: One-month suspension without pay

The complainant in this case was touched inappropriately by the respondent in this case on multiple occasions, including a time in October of 2016, where he slapped her butt, and a second set of incidences between November and December of 2016, where he poked her in the ribs and in the stomach on more than one occasion.

The university found that the respondent engaged in sexual harassment in violation of the SVSH policy. This includes “unwelcome physical conduct [that] was sexual in nature,” which interfered with the complainant’s employment and “would be perceived as offensive or intimidating to a reasonable person.”

The complainant described verbal abuse from the respondent, including a time where “he grabbed a garbage can and told her that her research was trash.” The respondent threatened her termination in front of the lab manager and students. He “would say that she looked like a 5 year old girl” and “described the lab environment as ‘hostile.’”

On one occasion, when the complainant was bending over and reaching into a drawer, “out of nowhere” the respondent “hit her on the bottom […] pretty hard, enough to surprise her.” The complainant recalls telling him to stop and “described the event as emotionally painful.” She also “reported being ‘quiet from her husband and the whole world,’” following the incident. Witnesses were present when this occurred and a complaint was then lodged with HDAPP.

The complainant recalls telling him to stop and “described the event as emotionally painful.”

The respondent randomly poked the complainant’s ribs on multiple occasions. After he did this, the complainant would tell him ‘no’ and, in her interview, she said she stopped working with him because this behavior persisted.

As a result of these incidents, the complainant “reported ongoing physical symptoms, including gastrointestinal issues, nervousness and sleeplessness,” which were classified as potentially impeding or interfering with the complainant’s employment.

The respondent denied “engaging in any verbal berating,” denied or did not recall poking the complainant’s ribs and denied hitting the complainant on the buttocks, stating he may have brushed against her. The investigator did not find this excuse to be supported.

As a result of the investigation, the respondent received a one-month suspension without pay.

Employee fearful of retaliation after rejecting advances from colleague

Case No.: 170035

Respondent: Unnamed staff member externally contracted

Outcome: Referred to external contractor for discipline

This case regards a male employee at the UC Davis Medical Center who was “repeatedly and inappropriately touched” on his arm, back and shoulders, and had “inappropriate comments of a sexual nature [made] toward him” by a female respondent.

According to the preponderance of the evidence, it was substantiated that the respondent in this case engaged in sexual harassment in violation of the Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment policy. It was supported that the respondent “engaged in unwelcome physical conduct” when he touched the complainant inappropriately and engaged in “unwelcome verbal conduct,” which included insinuating that the complainant “had engaged in sexual conduct as an explanation for his ‘good mood.’”

It was concluded that this conduct was of a sexual nature, and that it “was sufficiently severe or pervasive to impede or interfere with [the complainant’s] employment.”

The complainant described how pervasive the inappropriate touching was, including how the respondent would say tell him to “work his magic” and how she would get extremely close to him, so close that “he could see the blackheads on her nose and smell her breath.” Her breasts were described as rubbing on people because of how close she would get to them. The respondent also “openly discussed details of her personal life” and made a comment about the complainant’s sex life.

The complainant became concerned about “possible retaliation for not returning or showing […] affection.” He also “described getting a ‘bad’ or ‘weird sick’ feeling in his stomach that he compared to being ‘pulled over by the police’ or ‘panic’ when he would see [the respondent].”

The complainant became concerned about “possible retaliation for not returning or showing […] affection.”

People referred to his harasser as “his girl” and would ask him where she was if she was not around him. The complainant initially wished to remain anonymous and not file a formal complaint. After the complainant reported the behavior to his union representative, he felt that he was treated differently. The respondent “stopped touching him, began giving him ‘stank eyes,’” and “stopped talking to him.”

The respondent, in her interview, asserted “she did not agree” with the allegations against her,” denied any inappropriate touching and alleged there was a conspiracy, with people “in ‘cahoots’ to get her out.” The respondent said that “if she is ‘guilty’” of anything it was “telling people to do their jobs” and said this is “character assassination.”

Accounts from witnesses contradict the respondent’s account. The investigator of this case found no motive for the complainant to lie about what he reported and found evidence to support the complainant’s late disclosure of the incidents after he was unhappy with the response from management.

As a result of this investigation, the respondent was referred to the external contractor for discipline.

Employee pursued sexual relationship with undergraduate researcher “against her wishes”

Case No.: 170047

Respondent: Unnamed staff member

Outcome: One-week suspension without pay, no reappointment

There are six allegations brought against one respondent in this case, three of which were substantiated in part and three of which were fully substantiated.

It was partly substantiated that the respondent had made unwelcome and sexually suggestive comments in 2015 to an Undergraduate Researcher (UR) A. A university investigator found this occurred once and was not a repeat incident. It was also partly substantiated that at a social event, the respondent “stood uncomfortably close to UR A” and “put his hands on her waist without consent.” A university investigator found the respondent did not persist when she told him to stop touching her.

The next day, the respondent wanted to talk to UR A alone.

“UR A did not want to be alone with Respondent and her ‘stomach dropped,’” she said in her interview. “UR A told Respondent that everything that went down at the party was really inappropriate and she was uncomfortable and did not want anything like that to happen again […] Respondent told UR A he did not mean to make her uncomfortable and he was sorry.”

After this happened, UR A described worsening working conditions, where the respondent would “single her out” and “make up rules that applied only to her.” She described him as “constantly ‘pissed off.’”

A fifth allegation asserts that the respondent pursued an intimate relationship with UR B, a separate undergraduate researcher, “against her wishes.” This allegation is supported by evidence and was substantiated in part. The university substantiated the fact that the respondent suggested UR B should “leave her position in the laboratory due to their conflict.”

UR B recounted that she had attended a party, to which other people had been invited, but only the respondent attended. She recalled kissing him, but texted him after clarifying that she had no intention of having any further sexual contact because of their working relationship.

“During that conversation, Respondent said, ‘you kissed me, so there must have been some sort of attraction,’” the report states. “Respondent did not accept her saying ‘no.’ He continued to ask her out on a date.”

UR B told him she was not interested in dating him. He implied that they could have sex together, which she also refused. After the two had a normal conversation, UR B “thought things would be fine and they would continue being friends.” As time passed, however, “things got progressively ‘weirder.’”

UR B began avoiding the lab in order to avoid the respondent. When she did go into the lab, the respondent asked her why she would not date him — according to the interview, “his voice was raised and he was very frustrated […] UR B described it as a draining three-hour-long conversation.”

In this conversation, UR B recalled the respondent insinuating that she should leave the lab.

“Respondent told her that he did not know if he wanted to keep her because he was not getting what he wanted,” the report states. “In her interview, UR B said she did not realize that this was ‘textbook sexual harassment.’ […] [He said] that it seemed like a one-way street where she was getting what she wanted, i.e. to stay in the lab and not sleep with him, but he was not getting what he wanted.”

UR B reported the respondent’s conduct to a faculty member who told her that this was the third complaint he had received about the respondent in the timespan of one week.

The university’s investigation concluded that the respondent engaged in unwelcome sexual conduct and created a hostile work environment.

As a result of the investigation, the respondent received a one-week suspension without pay, his appointment was ended and he was not reappointed.

Supervisor exposed himself to employee

Case No.: 170141

Respondent: Unnamed staff member

Outcome: Terminated from position

This case of a female employee filing an official complaint with her supervisor was brought to the attention of the UC Davis Harassment & Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program. The male employer inappropriately touched her without her consent and exposed his penis in April of 2017.

Although the respondent denies these allegations, all of these complaints levied by the female employee were substantiated through interviews with five different individuals and available video footage.

On April 10, the respondent asked the complainant in the case to “hang out” in the designated supervisors’ office during the middle of her shift. She complied and, during the meeting, the respondent made the complainant aware that he was her new supervisor — a fact substantiated by a university investigation. He told her if she needed time off, he could work it out.

At this point in the conversation, the respondent touched her leg inappropriately. When the complainant attempted to leave, the respondent asked her why she was “acting so shy” and exposed himself.

“Following these incidents, complainant was visibly shaken, she missed work and her schedule was adjusted so she could work in another facility away from [the] Respondent because she was uncomfortable being around him and feared retaliation,” the report states.

Available video footage shows the complainant exiting the office before the respondent, appearing “visibly uncomfortable.”

The complainant in the case initially avoided explicitly naming the respondent, her supervisor, to avoid “getting him in trouble.” She “cited concerns about Respondent’s financial well-being” and “described fear of retaliation.”

“She is worried that if people find out she reported Respondent they will be angry with her because he has so many friends that work there,” the case reports. “At the same time, she couldn’t not say anything. She was too uncomfortable with the idea of being around Respondent. She was also worried about having him as her supervisor.”

“She is worried that if people find out she reported Respondent they will be angry with her because he has so many friends that work there,”

The complainant also addressed concerns about the respondent gaining access to her personal home address.

University officials concluded the respondent engaged in unwelcome sexual conduct, created a hostile work environment for the complainant and violated sexual harassment policy, resulting in his termination from the university.

Employee seeks mental health treatment after being sexually harassed by supervisor

Case No.: 170183

Respondent: Unnamed staff member

Outcome: Terminated from position

This case, filed May 9, 2017, regards a female employee who filed an official complaint against her male supervisor after she sought out anxiety medication from her doctor in order to cope with her uncomfortable work environment.

Three years before the male respondent in this case was hired as a supervisor, there was a complaint about him from another female employee who said he had “bothered her” and made her uncomfortable. He was subsequently moved to another area, but nothing ever came of it because, according to him, the woman “pulled the case because she didn’t want to pursue it.”

The female complainant in this case alleged the respondent, her supervisor, began visiting her at her work station numerous times a week after promoting her. Over a two-month period, he began referring to her as “cute girl” at work instead of by her name, would make comments about her appearance such as, “Why do you always look so good?” and “You’re so cute” and referred to employees he did not like as “bitch” and “fucking bitch.”

On one occasion, the respondent said “If you want a job at UC Davis, it’s called ‘no blow job, no job’” and “it’s not who you know, it’s who you blow” to another male supervisor in front of the complainant. After that conversation, she thought he might be insinuating that she perform a sexual favor for him.

After two months of this behavior, the complainant sought mental health help because she was having anxiety attacks at work, she could not sleep and her eating habits had changed. According to the report, she told her doctor that, at times, “she would get so emotional that her heart would be pounding, her hands would get sweaty and she had so much adrenaline she felt she was going to explode.”

She was also scared to be at work. The respondent had made it clear to the complainant who he did and did not like. On one occasion, when he saw her talking with someone he disliked, he got very angry and aggressive with her, demanding to know what they talked about.

“[In April], complainant lied to Respondent and told him she had a family emergency because he wanted to meet with her and she was really afraid of him and did not want to meet with him,” the report states. “There were times she got so scared of [the] respondent that she started shaking.”

On one occasion, the respondent grabbed her shoulders — “she was hoping the interaction would end, but she did not feel she could tell her supervisor to leave — and she feared retaliation if she reported him.

“she was hoping the interaction would end, but she did not feel she could tell her supervisor to leave — and she feared retaliation if she reported him.

“On the one hand, she felt she should have told him to leave her alone. But she did not want to upset him,” the report states. “She said she was worried if she told another supervisor, they would protect him. […] Complainant had not said something earlier because she felt Respondent had her job in his hands. She worried that the only way to get a job at UC Davis might be through him, and he had said he would do his best to get her in here. Eventually, though, she decided that her job was not that important and she ‘just can’t deal with it emotionally.’”

While some of the 16 witnesses interviewed by the university investigator said he is a hard worker and professional at work, others corroborated what the complainant alleged, one said “he is a perv,” another said they, too, were made uncomfortable by him and had asked not to be left alone with him, but she did not report his behavior because “she needed the job.”

While the respondent did acknowledge he made a comment about performing sexual favors to get promotions at the university, he denies much of what complainant alleged, claiming she might be making up these claims to get a promotion of her own.

At a meeting with management and the union, union organizers said they wanted the respondent placed on leave, insinuating they knew of at least five complaints against the respondent.

Following a university investigation, it was concluded the respondent in this case created an environment that was intimidating, offensive and hostile and engaged in unwanted sexual conduct. He was terminated by the university.

Employee subjected to misconduct from co-worker from 2013–17

Case No.: 170215

Respondent: Unnamed staff member

Outcome: 15-day suspension without pay

The complainant in this case reported her co-worker at UC Davis health after she was subjected to “inappropriate jokes” and “inappropriate remarks of a sexual nature” from 2013 to 2017. The respondent called the complainant “pretty” and “gorgeous,” made suggestive comments about her body and watched her in her home, accused her husband of cheating on her with another man and discussed his own sexual experiences in front of her.

In 2017, the complainant made the university aware of her co-worker’s harassment. The complainant had attempted to resolve the situation unsuccessfully in 2013 when she decided to meet with another employee and request sexual harassment training be given to the entire department.

In-person sexual harassment was given to the entire department. The complainant hoped the comments from the respondent would stop, “but it continued and it got worse and worse as the years went by.”

The complainant hoped the comments from the respondent would stop, “but it continued and it got worse and worse as the years went by.”

In 2016, the complainant said the comments became more sexually suggestive. He alluded to the fact there might be cameras in her office watching her, and from then on she became paranoid of the possibility of hidden cameras. She became afraid to go to her car.

“I don’t know if he told me this to intimidate me, harass me or bully me, […] I just know that I couldn’t protect myself against him and it made me afraid,” the complainant said in the report. “I just don’t want to have to deal with that anymore.”

The report states the complainant feared reporting the respondent because “she understood that it is hard to prove sexual harassment cases because respondent’s comments often occurred while they were alone.”

“I don’t understand why he tells me these things, I don’t know what to do,” the complainant said. “I don’t understand why I feel this way, I wish I was stronger but I get paralyzed.”

At the time of the investigation, the respondent disclosed that a former manager of his made accusations against him four years earlier but nothing came of it. During the investigation, two witnesses said the respondent frequently pulled up photos of 18 to 19-year-old girls and commented on their looks.

The university concluded the respondent accused created a hostile work environment for the complainant as well as those who overheard the comments he made to her. As a result of this investigation, the respondent was subject to a 15-day suspension without pay.

Employee bombards other employee with texts messages, shows up outside of her home

Case No.: 170421

Respondent: Unnamed staff member

Outcome: 10-day suspension without pay

The complainant in this case reported the respondent in this case to HDAPP in October of 2017 for continuous and unwanted flirtatious behavior occurring over a six-month period, the sending of unwanted text messages and gifts and requests to go out on a date. All of the allegations were substantiated by a university investigation.

“Between Complainant’s last message to Respondent and a March 2017 message where Complainant asked Respondent in writing to stop texting her, Respondent sent Complainant more than 100 unanswered text messages,” the report states. “He kept messaging her until she blocked him on text and Facebook.”

“He kept messaging her until she blocked him on text and Facebook.”

The text messages sent by the respondent asked the complainant to go out to eat or get coffee, referenced the complainant’s physical appearance and offered gifts or personal favors. The complainant had asked the respondent to stop messaging her.

“Complainant started her interview by saying that she didn’t really want to be here,” the report states. “Respondent had done a lot of things that she thought were inappropriate, but she had just hoped it would blow over.”

The complainant in the case began to fear for her safety after the respondent pulled up to her in his car when she was walking and, on a different occasion, when she saw him outside of work circling the block. She feared she was being followed. Once, she watched footage from cameras at her house that showed a car resembling the respondent’s pass by and brake in front of her house.

The university’s investigation concluded Respondent repeatedly flirted with the complainant over the timespan of approximately a year, and that the respondent sent unwanted text messages “even after Complainant sent Respondent a text reminding him that she wanted a strictly professional relationship and explicitly asking him to stop contacting her over text.”

The investigation also found the respondent gave unwanted gifts, asked the complainant out on a date and appeared at the complainant’s house.

Ultimately, the university found the respondent to have acted in a manner that could be qualified as stalking and in violation of the university’s sexual harassment policy.

The respondent was subject to a 10-day suspension without pay.

Professor sexually harassed student employee in his lab

Case No.: 170496

Respondent: Unnamed faculty member

Outcome: Four-month suspension without pay

In November of 2017, a graduate student employee, “Witness A,” emailed Delmendo to relay allegations made by a former student employee who they supervised. The student, an undergraduate and the complainant in this case, had made a number of allegations against her boss, a faculty advisor and professor at the university. The professor, the respondent in this case, supervised the complainant, an undergraduate researcher in his lab at UC Davis.

The complainant began working in the respondent’s lab to fulfill her research requirement. The complainant and respondent had a friendly relationship, occasionally getting food and drinks together, and the complainant would dogsit for her boss.

On more than one occasion, the respondent asked the complainant why she was so tense and if he made her uncomfortable. During her interview with a university official, the complainant said she was uncomfortable but didn’t feel comfortable with confrontation, though she did tell him she was tense on a number of these situations.

She told another student employee “she didn’t know what to do because Respondent was her boss.”

“she didn’t know what to do because Respondent was her boss.”

“Complainant […] thought that Respondent saw her as a daughter, so she did not see it coming when ‘things escalated and got creepy,’” the report states.

He complimented her smile and started telling her to smile when he walked into the lab while she was working.

“While working together in the lab, Respondent would ask her to smile and touch her hair,” the report states. “Respondent offered to increase Complainant’s pay […] in an effort to have her stay on an his employee. […] The Complainant noted that she doesn’t want to ruin Respondent’s life [and] doesn’t want him to lose his job.”

During his interview, the respondent said “most of this comes from misunderstandings, misinterpretations, some small lies and some truth.” He feels he’s being wrongly portrayed as a sexual predator when, in reality, he said that “he felt compassion and misplaced parenthood.”

Witnesses interviewed as part of this investigation noticed the inappropriate relationship that had formed between the complainant and the respondent.

Witness A told university officials during this investigation they had warned the respondent that the rumors that were being spread about his relationship with the complainant could be “life ruining” and told him to go to therapy.

“She told Respondent to get his priorities straight, everyone is upset partially because they care about him and the wellbeing of the lab,” the report states. “He was putting himself in emotional and professional danger.”

Once chatter began to increase in the lab, respondent brought the graduate students and postdocs into his office and drew an elephant “to represent the elephant in the room.” He said he had no sexual feelings for the complainant, that he knows others in the lab have been avoiding her and she is a sensitive person and said “he felt under attack.”

Witness G, who saw the complainant and respondent out getting drinks and cozying up to each other one night, said when she saw the other two, they were all embarrassed. Later, the respondent told the others in the lab not to trust what Witness G was saying.

The situation “got really bad” around August of 2017. At this time, the respondent gave the complainant a notebook. In the book, he had written that his happiest moment was kissing her on the cheek on his birthday, although that had never happened. The book disturbed the complainant, and she didn’t want to keep it but figured she might need it for proof as part of a process like this investigation.

The complainant began changing her work hours to avoid her boss and avoided cafes and restaurants he frequented. In September, the complainant called Witness H, a former student employee, crying and confided in them. That same month, the respondent sent the complainant an email in which he asked her not to leave the lab and said their relationship could be strictly professional.

“By the time you asked if you were making me uncomfortable I felt threatened and totally shut down,” the complainant wrote in an email.

A university investigation substantiated that the respondent invaded the complainant’s personal space, touched her on more than one occasion and put his hand under the back of her tank top and made comments about her, including calling her “the highlight of the lab.” In response, the respondent said at the times these situations occurred, his memory was “cloudy” and he was medicated.

The investigation found the respondent’s behavior could be constituted as of a sexual nature, that his sexual conduct was unwelcome, that he created a hostile work environment and, ultimately, that the respondent violated sexual harassment policy.
“Given the power differential between the parties and the fact that Respondent consistently asked Complainant if she was uncomfortable only after he already had started touching her, it is not surprising that Complainant would not speak out to tell him he was making her uncomfortable in the moment,” the report states.

The respondent was subject to a four-month suspension without pay.

Three employees complain of unwanted sexual advances from co-worker

Case No.: XXXXX

Respondent: Unnamed staff member

Outcome: Two-week suspension without pay

There are three complainants in this case: Complainant A, Complainant B and Complainant C. All three allege the respondent in this case, a female UC Davis staff member, acted inappropriately toward them. Complainant A charges the respondent with making unwelcome comments of a sexual nature to her and engaging in sexual advances. Complainant B says the respondent made offensive statements and verbally harassed her. And Complainant C says the respondent told her she could be her girlfriend or “girlfriend on the side.”

Complainant A alleges the respondent made sexual advances in January of 2015 in person and over text messages. She reported these advances to her supervisors and said the situation had caused her so much distress that she fell physically ill and missed work.

Complainant B said the respondent told her she was a closeted lesbian and needed therapy. After confronting the respondent about something work-related, the respondent said Complainant B was a bad person because of her religion, which is “anti-gay.” She also said the respondent “used her size and voice to intimidate her.”

But Complainant B stood her ground. She did not tell anyone what the respondent had said to her, but the respondent told other people.

“Complainant B did not report the incident at the time because she did not want Respondent to lose her job,” the report states.

Complainant C said in the fall of 2015, the respondent had put her arm around her while at work and said she could be her girlfriend.

After Complainant A reported the situation to her supervisor, her supervisors asked if she knew of any similar situations involving the respondent and said she was required to report these. Complainant A knew about the situation involving the respondent and Complainant B because the respondent had told her about it and she reported it to her supervisors.

After reporting, the respondent told others Complainant A was raising these concerns because she is homophobic.

“Complainant A expressed she is certain that if a male employee was hitting on Respondent even after she made it clear that she was a lesbian and was not interested, Respondent would see it as an assault on her rights and would be trying to get the person fired,” the report states.

During her interview with a university investigator, the respondent said “this smells like homophobia.”

“I don’t know if she would have responded this way if a man had made those comments,” the respondent said. “Maybe it triggered something in her that she hadn’t thought about with her sexuality; maybe the only thing she knew how to do was report and push me away.”

The investigation concluded the respondent created an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment for Complainant B. Her conduct toward Complainant A violates the university’s sexual harassment policy. But the evidence does not substantiate that the incident between the respondent and Complainant C could be concluded as having violated the sexual harassment policy.

As a result of these findings, the respondent was placed on a two-week suspension without pay.

Written by: Hannah Holzer and Kenton Goldsby — campus@theaggie.org


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