A judge denied a motion by a 72-year-old Dodger employee to dismiss countersuits filed against her by the team and her supervisor after she sued both, alleging her health was negatively affected by a backlash she suffered when she complained about alleged sexual harassment by her boss.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Landin heard arguments on Friday, then ruled Monday that the countersuits — which allege plaintiff Vickie Gutierrez illegally recorded at least one conversation with her boss, Shahram Ariane — can move forward.
In his court papers seeking dismissal of the countersuits on free-speech grounds, Gutierrez’s attorney, Joseph Singleton, said his client did nothing wrong in recording the conversation.
“All that is necessary is for a victim of sexual battery to believe that the recording reasonably believed to relate to the commission of any felony involving violence against the person,” Singleton wrote in his court papers. “Here, Gutierrez testified that she made the recording to gather evidence of Shahram’s sexual battery of her.”
Gutierrez’s lawsuit was filed May 20 and names as defendants Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, Los Angeles Dodgers Holding Co. LLC and Ariane, identified in the complaint as the team’s executive in charge of security for Dodger Stadium and Dodger management. According to her lawsuit, Gutierrez has worked for the Dodgers as an usher “or the equivalent” for the last 35 years, never missed a single day and has an exemplary record.
As a result of the hostile work environment, Gutierrez suffers from high blood pressure, hand tremors, migraines, panic attacks and a constant fear of losing the job she has held for more than three decades, according to her court papers.
But both the Dodgers and Ariane filed separate countersuits against Gutierrez, alleging she illegally recorded the conversation without telling him in advance.
“In connection with an internal investigation, the Dodgers learned that Gutierrez had secretly recorded at least one private conversation between her and Ariane during work hours,” the Dodger countersuit states.
Neither the team nor Ariane consented to the recording as required by law, the Dodger countersuit further alleges.
The Ariane countersuit states that Gutierrez has been a troublesome employee.
“During the last few years of her employment, Ariane has received 28 disciplinary write-ups and warnings regarding her conduct at work,” the Ariane countersuit states.
The suit says Gutierrez broke her ankle in 2016 and Ariane offered to go to her home and assist her. Gutierrez says she declined and when she returned to work, Ariane assigned her to the centerfield smoking section, even though she is a cancer survivor.
According to her court papers, Gutierrez considered the assignment a demotion in which Ariane intended to punish her and “soften” her for his alleged sexual demands. The plaintiff says she worked the centerfield assignment wearing a dust mask to avoid inhaling the cigarette smoke.
Ariane later assigned Gutierrez to an entrance gate near right field and told her to meet him in his office, where he repeatedly kissed her on the lips and fondled her, the suit alleges.
Ariane also applied sunscreen to Gutierrez as a pretext to sexually touch her, according to the complaint, which says she was “terrified” of Ariane because of his powerful position and felt unable to defend herself.
Gutierrez was at her “breaking point” in 2017 and confided in a colleague, who informed Dodger management, the suit says. However, as noted in the Dodger statement, an internal Dodger investigation exonerated Ariane, the suit states.
The plaintiff alleges that since the beginning of the 2018 season, Ariane’s subordinates have been “shadowing” Gutierrez at her assignments, and that he and the Dodgers are “diligently fabricating … reasons to terminate plaintiff’s employment in retaliation for (her) complaints about Ariane’s repeated sexual battering of (Gutierrez).”
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