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City acknowledges delay in dealing with discrimination complaint

Earlier this year, amid multiple complaints about sexual harassment and discrimination against city employees, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the implementation of a website called MyVoiceLA where employees could report harassment and discrimination. At the time, Garcetti directed city officials to address any complaints by current as well as former employees "quickly and efficiently."

However, Council President Herb Wesson wasn't informed about a discrimination complaint made in June against City Councilman Jose Huizar for almost three months. The city's personnel department is required to inform either the council president or the mayor as soon as a sexual harassment or discrimination complaint is made against any elected city official. A committee must then be convened to investigate the allegation.

Wesson did convene such a committee when he was told of the allegation against Huizar. That Special Committee on Investigative Oversight will determine whether an independent investigator should be brought in to look into the matter.

A personnel department official publicly acknowledged that the complaint was mishandled. He said, "We regret what happened. We apologize that it happened. And we're never going to let this happen again."

The official has provided several reasons for the delay. Recently, however, he said the reason was that it "was a very broad complaint that made it difficult to identify a specific charge against a specific person," and the department didn't realize that it involved an elected official. The procedure for investigating complaints against elected officials is different from the procedure for other city employees.

In a statement, Huizar, whose district includes Eagle Rock and Boyle Heights, said, "I take this matter seriously and deny discriminating against any current or former staff members, and I look forward to a full, transparent and expeditious resolution." He can only serve until 2020 because of term limits. However, his wife has already announced that she plans to run to succeed her husband when his term ends.

The precise nature of the alleged discrimination has not been made public, nor has any information about the person who made the complaint.

Every workplace has its own procedures for reporting discrimination and harassment. If you're the victim of either or both, it's essential to find out what procedures your employer has in place and follow them. If that doesn't resolve the situation or if you face retaliation because of your complaint, an experienced California employment law attorney can provide valuable guidance.

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