However, “Defendant Lembo also knew that the Plaintiff was only one of two male counselors in the Plaintiff’s department, and the Plaintiff had the lowest level of seniority. As a result, most of the bathroom monitor duties would fall onto the Plaintiff.”
Johnson asserts that in his department he “could routinely interact with up to 25 male clients a day” and that bathroom monitoring took “a great deal of time and effort away from him, and other counselors, in the performance of their main job duties.” According to Johnson’s suit, “Lembo sought to demean and humiliate” him. One of his coworkers “even made a drawing of someone wearing a gas mask with the caption ‘Barry Johnson, Lavatory Monitor,’” the suit says.
In August of 2008, as the agency conducted its investigation, Johnson was placed on paid administrative leave. “Placing the Plaintiff on administrative leave for ‘whistle-blowing’ was unlawful hostile, harassing and retaliatory conduct,” says Johnson’s suit. After returning from administrative leave in early September, according to the suit, Johnson was “re-assigned to a new clinical supervisor”; his hours were changed such that he “was required to work until 7:30 p.m., two nights a week even though he had no client appointments”; and “all of his personal belongings had been packed into boxes.”
Ultimately, according to Johnson, South Bay Community Services settled his lawsuit out of court, and he was awarded $80,000, or the equivalent of two years’ pay. Johnson’s settlement did not include a confidentiality clause.
Johnson had a personal relationship with Alicia Guido, who worked for the agency from June 2006 until February 2009. Her May 2009 lawsuit listed eight causes of action. The agency moved for a summary judgment — a decision without a trial. The judge ruled that the case could go forward on four causes of action: “Discrimination and/or Harassment,” “Failure to Prevent Discrimination,” “Wrongful Termination,” and “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.”
Guido was fired, according to her suit, because of a violation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which protects the privacy of clients. Guido’s suit states that on Friday, January 30, 2009, she left the office with client files to work on at home and that the associate manager saw her leave. “As the plaintiff was making her way out through the [organization’s] building she was met by Dina Chavez, Associate Director Manager for [the agency]. Ms. Chavez is second-in-command at [South Bay Community Services]. Ms. Chavez saw the plaintiff carrying the files and said to plaintiff ‘it looks like someone is working from home.’ The plaintiff responded to Ms. Chavez that she had some files to review and prepare over the weekend,” the lawsuit states.
The suit goes on to say that Guido placed the files in the trunk of her car and drove away. “Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff received voice mail messages from Ms. Chavez and Ms. Brew to return the files to the [agency’s] building.” The following Monday, Guido was fired. Guido’s lawsuit states that the agency’s “policy permits, encourages and advises employees how to access [agency] files from home computers and laptops.” It also states, “If Ms. Chavez believed [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] and/or [agency] policy was about to be broken by the plaintiff when Ms. Chavez saw and spoke to the plaintiff about the files before the plaintiff left the [agency’s] building, then Ms. Chavez should have taken some type of action as the Associate Director…to prevent the plaintiff from potentially violating any law or policies.”
Termination of employment, Guido’s suit says, was due to the fact that Guido “had a close personal relationship with a former [agency] employee Barry Johnson…a disfavored [agency] employee, because he had made an internal [agency] complaint against the defendants [South Bay Community Services] and Lembo.”
According to Guido’s suit, “On or after July 2008, and after Mr. Johnson made his complaints via [the agency’s] internal process, the defendants unlawfully harassed the plaintiff in order to disrupt her relationship with Mr. Johnson. Specifically, Ms. Chavez…personally questioned the plaintiff about her relationship with Mr. Johnson. At the same time, Ms. Chavez also suggested to the plaintiff, that she instead date others, besides Mr. Johnson.… Ms. Chavez also inquired of other [agency] employees regarding the plaintiff’s relationship with Mr. Johnson, and suggested to these employees that plaintiff date others. One such [agency] employee told the plaintiff, that Ms. Chavez had contacted him and that Ms. Chavez had encouraged him to date the plaintiff.”
The family therapist who filed suit in 2006 listed defamation and battery as causes of action. According to her suit, the agency “discharged Plaintiff in retaliation for making a reasonable, good faith refusal to violate the relevant laws.” Two days after discussing her concerns with the clinical director, human resources director Ismena Valdez “informed Plaintiff she was terminated and must leave immediately,” the suit says. “Plaintiff was not allowed to obtain her personal things from her office or say farewell to any coworkers. When Plaintiff was not moving fast enough, Valdez grabbed her on the arm and pulled her along the corridor. Plaintiff was shocked and embarrassed by Valdez’s demeaning behavior.”
Oversight of South Bay Community Services comes from a board of directors comprising influential Chula Vistans, such as former Chula Vista city manager David Rowlands and, until recently, Chula Vista chief of police David Bejarano. Shirley Horton, a former assemblymember and mayor of Chula Vista, left the Downtown San Diego Partnership last August to take a staff position at South Bay Community Services. As director of development, she raises funds for the organization.
Two members of the agency’s upper management, directors Mauricio Torre and Dina Chavez, sit on the City of Chula Vista’s Housing Advisory Commission. This commission influences decisions that directly affect the finances of South Bay Community Services. According to the City’s website, the commission “assesses the housing needs in the City and reviews housing policies, strategies, and proposed affordable housing projects.” It advises the city council, housing authority, and redevelopment agency. South Bay Community Services owns a number of affordable-housing rental properties in Chula Vista, purchased, in part, with federal grant monies awarded by the City of Chula Vista.