By City News Service
A Baldwin Park woman, who alleges the co-owner of the company where she worked spied on her and other female employees with a camera hidden in a restroom, sued her former employer today.
Jessica Serrano filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against RO and MP Distributors Inc., a commercial restroom supply wholesaler in Industry, and co-owner Rafael Ortiz of Walnut. Her allegations include sexual harassment, sex and gender discrimination, failure to prevent harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Serrano is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Maria Penilla, the company's other co-owner, said Ortiz sold his half of the business to her and that he is no longer with the firm. Penilla said she knew nothing about Serrano being sexually harassed until the plaintiff told her about the camera.
Penilla said she has not yet seen the lawsuit, but called Serrano "a good girl" who worked in customer service and also provided cost estimates to clients. Penilla said she has two daughters of her own and is sympathetic to Serrano.
"She has to do what she has to do," Penilla said. "I don't blame her."
Penilla said the camera was in Ortiz's office, not the restroom, and that she believed he used it to spy on her, as well.
Serrano's attorney, Gregory Annigian, said his client is in her 20s, but declined further comment.
According to the complaint, Serrano worked for the firm for eight months. Ortiz often stared at her and made inappropriate comments, including "pretty one" and "mi amor," her court papers allege.
"On one occasion, when plaintiff was wearing a sweater, Ortiz would tell (her) to take her sweater off because it was warm enough in the office," the suit says.
When Serrano developed a rash after eating sushi, he told her to "lift up your shirt, I want to see if the rash is on your stomach," according to the suit.
Serrano claims she found the bathroom camera on a shelf on May 2.
"Ortiz placed the hidden camera such that it shot towards the mirror and reflected back so that Ortiz would have a clear shot of the unsuspecting women using the toilet, including plaintiff," her lawsuit alleges.
Attached to the complaint are three images of the restroom and the location where Ortiz allegedly put the camera.
After Serrano complained to Ortiz about the camera, he retaliated by coming to work during times his presence was not necessary, the suit alleges.
When Serrano told Penilla about the camera and said she did not feel comfortable working at the company anymore, Penilla responded by saying she could not tell Ortiz he could not come to his own business, according to the lawsuit.
But Penilla said Ortiz wrote the email reply to Serrano.
Serrano says she quit her job soon thereafter because she could not endure further harassment and intimidation by Ortiz.