Exclusive: Security officer sues Palomar Medical Center for retaliation, sexual harassment

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) - A young San Diego security officer says she faced retaliation after reporting sexual harassment to her employer, Escondido’s Palomar Medical Center.

She spoke exclusively with 10News about her experience. The hospital will not discuss the details with 10News, but reports it takes matters like this seriously.

The woman and her attorneys are now suing the hospital and the supervisor who she accused of sexual misconduct.10News was asked to withhold the identity of the woman who filed the sexual harassment claim.

In a recent emotional interview, she said, “I'm helping my dad with my sister so if I lose my job [I] don't see how I’ll be able to financially support my family.”

Attorney Anna Yum with Gilleon Law Firm is representing the woman. Yum told us, “Every worst nightmare that she could have anticipated [has] happened.”

Yum said the woman was working as a security officer at Palomar Medical Center when her supervisor kissed her, but it was not welcomed.

Yum added that the supervisor is a former police officer who is nearly twice her age. Yum’s client told us, “He said, ‘Just please don't say anything. I’ll be sure that you get that lead position that you applied for.’”

The woman explained that she agreed and told him, “I won't say anything,” and, “Just, please. I want to leave.”

She said she did not report it at the time because she was concerned about retaliation. She was promoted, but said he continued to make her uncomfortable with his comments and would hug her on several occasions.

Due to her anxiety and stress, the lawsuit reports she took a medical leave of absence. Late last year she claimed he tried to kiss her again.

“He told me, ‘If you do go to HR, I'll make sure you lose your job.’ Now that I’m experiencing all this with HR, it's like surreal,” she added.

She reported the harassment in a letter to HR on February 15th, 2018, she told us. Yet she said it wasn’t until almost two weeks later that HR opened an investigation into the matter.

By that time, she hired Yum as her lawyer and wanted Yum present at her meetings with HR. However, Yum claims that HR refused to let her have an attorney present for the meetings.

HR reportedly wrote to her on March 27th, 2018, reiterating that the hospital “would have to conduct the investigation without [her] input, which is obviously not preferred.”

According to Yum, “They said, ‘Well, we couldn't corroborate because [the client] refused to cooperate with us,’ which is the furthest thing from the truth.” The letter goes on to explain that since she refused to do an interview without her attorneys, HR, “…concluded the investigation without [her] input."

Yum says her client was then notified that she was getting demoted under the false pretense that it was her client's idea to step down, not the hospital's idea.

Yum says that continued retaliation unfolded. Her client tells 10News that on March 30th, 2018, she received a letter from HR placing her on immediate investigatory leave so the hospital could “review an alleged security incident” from three days earlier while she was “on duty as the lead security officer”.

Yum has called it a sham investigation. She says her client knows nothing about a security incident that happened on her watch.

“This is so classic. This is exactly why women don't want to come forward,” Yum told us. Yum and her client are now suing the hospital for sexual harassment and retaliation, among other complaints.

They're also suing the accused harasser, who we are not naming, as he has not been charged with a crime. Both he and the hospital declined our interview requests.

A statement from Palomar Medical Center reads, “Although Palomar Health cannot comment on pending legal matters, please be assured that we take all complaints of discrimination in the workplace seriously, including the complaint at issue. We are also not at liberty to discuss any of the details of our investigations into workplace misconduct due to the privacy rights of the employees involved.”

“They don't want to have anything to do with me, I feel. I feel like they've already chosen their side and their truth,” Yum’s client told us. 

She has since accepted a security position at another San Diego hospital, but says it’s a pay cut from what she was making at Palomar Medical Center.

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