Angry 'girls'

Angry 'girls'

Old Pas Management District workers file complaints over alleged sexual harassment and discrimination, as well as wage and labor law issues

By André Coleman , Kevin Uhrich 01/15/2014

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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.” 

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Comments

On what planet is it appropriate for a VP to wear tank tops and be an hourly employee? this is ridiculous.

posted by lucymcg on 1/16/14 @ 12:15 p.m.

Mulheim is out of line. On what planet is it appropriate for an employer to refer to an employee's breasts as "the girls"?? How awkward and uncomfortable! You can't limit only one female employee on their clothing either, especially if the reasoning is based on their breasts! Oh, and pay your employees appropriately and don't try and cut corners because you will inevitably end up with a law suit on your hands. The whole situation is SO unprofessional!

posted by Meganfarrell on 1/16/14 @ 05:58 p.m.

I agree with Meganfarrell. As a male, I would even feel disrespectful saying those things to a female employee. I think he should have referred to the employee hand book before singling this woman out. Sounds a bit like an attack on his end...

posted by lacymthomas on 1/16/14 @ 06:52 p.m.

I have had the opportunity to interact with Anna on many occasions, and she has always epitomized professionalism and grace. She dresses appropriately, and gives 100% to her career. This is a clear case sexual discrimination. The situation is biased and unprofessional.

posted by Lisahaney on 1/16/14 @ 07:02 p.m.

As a previous employee in the City of Pasadena, I have interacted with Anna on several occasions. Every time she exuded nothing but professionalism. She is an incredibly hard working individual and has done amazing things for the City of Pasadena. I'm saddened to hear that she has been treated with such disrespect. Where in any job place is it okay to address any part of someone's body? Also, when is it okay to allow people to work overtime and utilize their personal belongings and not get reimbursement or be compensated appropriately? This is a shame.

posted by A.V. on 1/16/14 @ 07:55 p.m.

Wow I worked with Kershona and she is nothing but an amazing, hard working person. I am shocked he did this, she contributed so much to not only Make Music Pasadena and the City of Pasadena!

posted by Kristen5 on 1/16/14 @ 08:54 p.m.

Newsflash! I know at last 10 women who refer to their breasts as "the girls" in professional settings. If she ever, even once, referred to her breasts in such a way this case should be immediately dismissed.

Just my two cents.

posted by SuperMario on 1/16/14 @ 10:10 p.m.

I am very disappointed in tone of the article, and especially the inappropriate innuendoes in the title "Angry Girls," figures the authors are men. Is this another example of the "war on women." This article hits home as I was sexually harassed many years ago; my first job, very far away from friends, family and support. For me, the unwelcome advancements were humiliating and degrading. It is the reason I admire Grazioli and Mayo as they have the courage, I lacked, to seek Social Justice for themselves. This is a journey less traveled, filled with angry girl jokes, gossip, lawyers, and judgement, not to mention it appears that Grazioli still reports for Mulheim -- uncomfortable for sure. Sexual harassment is serious, for all involved. Can we please put away "the angry girl jokes" and body part discussions so that the rules and procedures of Social Justice can run it course; it applies to all people, even beautiful women like Grazioli and Mayo. And perhaps the first step is an apology from Pasadena Weekly and the authors to Grazioli and Mayo for their inappropriate and sexual title. Old Town Pasadena and our community is better than that.

posted by msmith on 1/16/14 @ 10:15 p.m.

What exactly are these "GIRLS" trying to get? Sounds like they want fast money.
Mr. Mulheim is a decent man and I'm sure he is justifiably horrified at these accusations. I've worked with Mr. Mulheim on several projects in Old Pasadena and he is never anything but professional. I'll lay a bet that says these "GIRLS" never approached Mr. Mulheim with these issues to see if they could be resolved internally. I'm sure he would have worked with them on any issues they had.
Maybe if the "GIRLS" would grow up and become "WOMEN", they would handle things in a more mature manner.

PS- and Ms. Grazioli, when your lawyer advises you not to talk to the press, I'm sure she means not to talk to the press.

posted by PROUD LIBERAL on 1/17/14 @ 05:51 a.m.

I'm sorry but on NO level is it ok for any male of higher authority to refer to a female employees breasts as the girls!!! This is ridiculous! I am a business owner in Pasadena and have had a chance to meet Mrs.Grazioli a couple times and I not once in the 6 years of being in business here have I seen her dress Inappropriately. Just because someone has large breasts doesn't mean they can have a different dress code designed for them. Sounds like discrimination to me. And in response to proud liberal...fast money?? Give me a break! It's about principle and not letting people get away with saying whatever they want to their employees

posted by LANative12 on 1/17/14 @ 10:05 a.m.

To you, LANative, I can only say I know Mr. Mulheim and he is always polite and respectful. Remember, these are allegations, not facts. Are you sure that isn't you, Ms. Graziloi, hiding behind a keyboard to further your cause?

posted by PROUD LIBERAL on 1/17/14 @ 10:58 a.m.

LOL! The fact that you are accusing me, a pasadena citizen that was browsing through all articles in my community not just this one makes me believe that you either are Mr.Mulheim or his acquaintance. I however have no relationship with either. But nice try proud liberal. Haha god bless you!

posted by LANative12 on 1/17/14 @ 11:26 a.m.

To Proud liberal, do you work with him day in and day out? Do you really know him? Remember what you are saying about Mrs. Grazioli are allegations not facts. These are women not girls trying to stand up for what they believe is right. Wouldn't you?

posted by lacymthomas on 1/17/14 @ 11:33 a.m.

PROUD LIBERAL you don't know Mulheim well enough- were you in the office when this went down? Did you know of his constant absences, talks about drug use etc. These women were discriminated against because they whistle blew on him. I witnessed it first hand working with Mayo closely on lots of committees and seeing it for myself. She and Grazioli are nothing but hard working women, I know it is not about the money for them but about people taking notice how horribly they were treated and how Mulheim is a pig. Mulheim puts on a good front, but until you have worked closely with him as I have on tons of committees you don't know the extent of his laziness and bad behavior.

posted by Scoll on 1/17/14 @ 11:34 a.m.

I know nothing about drug abuse, absences, etc. I've worked with him on a few events and he's been very kind to me. that's what I know of him. If the "GIRLS" aren't looking for money, why do they ask for it? It is a big problem in our lawsuit crazy country.

posted by PROUD LIBERAL on 1/17/14 @ 12:01 p.m.

I am damn furious that this article was written with no respect to women in the work place. I have attended many events that Graziloi and Mayo have coordinated and they have done a wonderful job. Old town Pasadena will suffer greatly with the loss of these two hardworking, bright and creative women. Mulheim should be fired immediately for his rude comments and discriminatory behavior as well as his inability to lead in a appropriate manner.

posted by seven timer on 1/17/14 @ 04:08 p.m.

I agree with msmith. Pasadena Weekly, their editors and the authors of this article should be ashamed of themselves for the title Angry "girls". You owe these women, particularly Ms. Grazioli, an sincere apology. You took what should be a legitimate piece of journalism reporting on a very serious subject and turned it into something we might expect from TMZ or one of those rags at the check out stand at the market. No one deserves to be treated like this, by their employer or the media. These are serious, not frivolous allegations. Pasadena Weekly demeans and degrades women everywhere with their lame title. Your journalistic team needs a course in sexual harassment and discrimination as much as Mulheim does. So raise the bar on yourselves Weekly. We expect more of you and this community and particularly these two women deserve no less.

posted by rocksolid13 on 1/17/14 @ 11:22 p.m.

It is sad to see these two females going through this. I have know Anna for years and she is such a hard worker and should never have had to been put through this situation in the work place.

posted by healthybug on 1/19/14 @ 01:04 p.m.

I've worked with Kershona for the Make Music festival for the past few years and have experienced nothing but the utmost professionalism from her. I'm shocked and dismayed that they would fire an employee who contributes so much to the city.

posted by StomachPunch on 1/19/14 @ 05:08 p.m.

I GUESS PUMPING UP HER BREASTS AND WEARING TANK TOPS CLEARLY SENDS THE MESSAGE "DON'T LOOK AT MY TITS." WHAT A CROCK.

posted by PROUD LIBERAL on 1/20/14 @ 06:04 a.m.

All one could conclude after reading this article and the comments is that... it's not business, it's personal...

I'm sure there's merit to the cases... and i'm sure there's merit to the actions taken by Mulheim. The question will ultimately be, was anything illegal?

What an embarrassment to OPMD. A word to the wise for any employer or employee, this article could be written about you, so be nice and play fair.

posted by SuperMario on 1/20/14 @ 10:59 p.m.

What an embarrassment to OPMD that is for sure. Not paying overtime and sexually discriminating against an employee. Plus not firing Mulheim what a joke!

posted by Scoll on 1/21/14 @ 10:27 a.m.

Two out of three employees are suing the district. Great use of my tax assessment OPMD. Why don't you learn how to treat and manage your employees with respect, instead of waisting mine and other business dollars on lawsuits.

posted by Scoll on 1/29/14 @ 12:10 p.m.
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