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Court of Appeals rules in favor of young woman who alleged sexual harassment by corrections officer in Kern County juvenile hall

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Posted at 4:57 PM, Jan 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-31 20:06:51-05

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal ruled in favor of a young woman who alleged sexual harassment by a corrections officer at the Kern County Juvenile Hall, overturning a 2017 summary judgment.

The plaintiff Samantha Vasquez, a juvenile arrested in Delano in 2015, alleged that George Anderson violated her right to privacy when he allegedly watched her shower multiple times. She also alleged he touched her face and shoulders without her consent, talked about her appearance in her shower gown, and told her about a sexual dream he had involving her, according to court documents.

In a decision Friday, the panel of judges said a jury could have found the officer's conduct violated Vasquez's right to privacy and his supervisor "knew or reasonably should have known" of the officer's alleged actions and failed to put an end to it.

According to court documents, Vasquez told a substance abuse counselor when Anderson told her about the sexual dream and the counselor reported the allegations. Court documents said an investigation ensued by the Bakersfield Police Department.

The investigation lasted approximately eight months. Investigators said Anderson's supervisor and the disciplinary review board at the probation department leaned towards the allegations being true. Kern County then began the process of terminating Anderson’s employment.

Vasquez filed a lawsuit against Anderson, his supervisor Heathe Appleton, and the County of Kern in 2016 alleging that Anderson’s conduct violated her constitutional rights. She also alleged claims against Kern County and Appleton for municipal and supervisory liability. The district court ultimately granted Anderson’s and Appleton’s motions for summary judgment

The panel held that the district court erred when it concluded there was no evidence supporting a causal link between the Appleton’s conduct and Anderson's behavior. They also found error with the court granting summary judgment and ruled the court reverse and remand further proceedings.