Old Pas Management District workers file complaints over alleged sexual harassment and discrimination, as well as wage and labor law issues
When things needed to get done, Old Pasadena Management District (OPMD) Executive Director Steve Mulheim, according to a court document, would say things like, “Send Anna out to take care of it,” referring to the district’s vice president of operations, Ann Grazioli. “She and ‘the girls’ can get it done.”
In such cases, according to a complaint filed Oct. 21 in Los Angeles Superior Court against Mulheim, OPMD and Does 1 through 10, alleging sexual harassment and discrimination, failure to prevent sexual discrimination, as well as state wage and labor law violations, “‘girls’ was understood to be a reference to Grazioli’s breasts,” which she had surgically augmented the previous year.
Mulheim did not return calls seeking comment for this story, but his attorney strongly denied claims made by Grazioli, who also alleges that she was not paid overtime and double time wages for working up to 10 hours on some days. Grazioli also claims she was sometimes not allowed to take meal and rest breaks, and was forced to use her own phone, car and computer for work purposes without being compensated.
But Grazioli, 51, isn’t the only OPMD employee to complain about allegedly shoddy treatment. In a separate but related court filing, Kershona Mayo, OPMD’s manager of marketing and events and a chief organizer of the annual Make Music Pasadena festival, an annual one-day event that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to a number of outdoor music venues around Old Pasadena and other parts of the city, claims she also was cheated out of wages by the organization.
However, unlike Grazioli, the 32-year-old Mayo was fired by Mulheim after being accused of leaking complaints about her pay to members of the OPMD board of directors — Mulheim’s bosses.
Mayo, who denies sending a letter of complaint to OPMD board members, is suing for both the wages she believes she is owed and wrongful termination.
With regard to Mayo’s complaint, Mulheim’s Los Angeles lawyer, Keith Fink, told the Pasadena Weekly, that Mulheim was within his rights to fire her. Regarding Grazioli’s claims of sexual harassment and discrimination, it is not against the law for an employer to ask an employee to dress professionally, Fink said.
“I am not disputing she had breast surgery,” said Fink. “She is complaining that the Old Pasadena Management District asked her to dress appropriately. I am assuming if someone at the Pasadena Weekly had breast surgery they would be told to dress professionally. To me, the claim is a joke and I told that to the lawyer. It borders on the silly and the frivolous.”
Fink denies that Mulheim ever said Grazioli should go out on business calls after referring to her breasts as “the girls.”
“We say that did not happen,” Fink said. “We do not disagree with the rest of what she is saying. Several board members thought she was dressing inappropriately.”
In the case of Mayo, Fink said she breached confidentiality, despite her claims that she was fired for complaining about her pay.
Lonnie Blanchard, the attorney for Garzioli and Mayo, said the case is in the early stages and no mediation or trial dates have been set. Blanchard would not talk about how much money could be won in a potential lawsuit.
“Each complaint is a little bit different,” Blanchard said. “I think they were seriously harassed.”
Blanchard has advised his clients against speaking with the media. Fink has done the same with Mulheim.
“The acts and practices of defendants failing to pay plaintiff all wages due to her for regular hours, overtime hours, and/or reporting time hours worked, failing to provide the requisite meal and/or rest periods, failing to pay the meal and/or rest period wages due, and failing to reimburse plaintiff for necessary business expenses are acts or practices that are ‘unfair,’” states a portion of Mayo’s complaint.
“As a proximate cause of defendant’s wrongful acts, plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer damages, including lost wages, benefits and certain other incidental, consequential expenses and losses, and general damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress in an amount to be determined” by the court, the document states.
According to her complaint, “Grazioli was required to meet her supervisor [Mulheim] in his office. During this meeting, Mulheim stated something to the effect of the following: “I’m just going to rip off the Band-Aid and say it. It’s been brought to my attention during the past year, since your breast augmentation, that your wearing of tank tops has become offensive. There have been eight instances over the past year where board members came up to me and made comments. At yesterday’s board meeting, a male board member said that he felt uncomfortable sitting in the room across from you because of your breasts. He didn’t know where to look because, ‘there was so much of it,’” the document states.
“You started wearing tank tops haphazardly, but now it’s become a staple. Therefore, you cannot wear tank tops any longer,” the complaint alleges Mulheim said. “You may wear layered clothing with a tank top underneath, but not on its own.”
Grazioli protested against those remarks, and she complained to Mulheim about the alleged comments of board members and stakeholders, yet Mulheim took no action, the document states.
“Grazioli further expressed protest about why she was the only female being given restrictions on her clothing and no such instructions were given to other female employees of the office, to which Mulheim replied something to the effect of, ‘because your breast are significantly larger.’ To which Grazioli responded back using words like, ‘this is sexual discrimination,’ to which Mulheim replied using words like, ‘ I don’t see it that way,’” the complaint goes on.
“Grazioli asked Mulheim if this restriction with regard to tank tops was specific only to her and not to the two other women who worked in the office and Mulheim replied using words like, ‘Yes.’ However,” the complaint states, “Grazioli’s protests were futile and Mulheim continued making comments and statements
regarding Grazioli’s breasts and clothing.”
Grazioli “continues to face discrimination by Defendants about her breasts and clothing and continues to face retaliation for her complaints regarding this discrimination,” states the document.
“These incidents are not just simple reprimands,” Blanchard said. “These are clear cases of harassment.”