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Judge: Sex harassment claim against Englander aide can move forward

A lawsuit alleging that a former employee in L.A. City Councilman Mitchell Englander's office was sexually harassed by the lawmaker's top deputy can move forward, although the plaintiff may be required to identify herself, a Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.

During a hearing, city attorneys asked Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis to dismiss the lawsuit filed last fall, arguing that the allegations did not qualify as harassment under the state's fair employment laws. The judge denied the request.

The plaintiff's Sept. 16 complaint alleged discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination. The woman, identified as "Jane Doe," claimed that John Lee, Englander's chief of staff, repeatedly made inappropriate sexual remarks to her.

Because of the alleged abuse, she said she quit her post in April 2013, after working a little more than a year on the councilman's staff. During that time, she rose from a secretary to a field deputy, representing Englander in community meetings, according to court documents.

The woman alleges she was denied a chance to become Englander's public safety deputy--dealing with law enforcement, firefighting and other public safety issue--because of her gender.

Lee, who remains Englander's chief of staff, was out of the office Tuesday, and Englander was unavailable for comment. The councilman previously has said he had been unaware of the claims made in the lawsuit until it was filed.

He also told reporters after the suit was filed that he has a "system in place" in his office designed to ensure "any situation like this would immediately surface and be dealt with."

Also Tuesday, the judge requested attorneys for the plaintiff to file briefs explaining why she should be permitted to remain anonymous as she pursues her claims. Those filings are due next week.


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