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Burbank slapped with sexual harassment lawsuit over Peeping Tom ex-employee

Burbank slapped with sexual harassment lawsuit over Peeping Tom ex-employee
Four city employees have filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the city over a now former co-worker who secretly filmed them undressing at the Verdugo Aquatics Facility. (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)

Four women filed a lawsuit against the city of Burbank on Wednesday, claiming the city is liable for a former co-worker who secretly filmed them undressing for several months in an employee locker room when they worked at the Verdugo Aquatics Facility in 2016.

Two of the women in the suit were minors at the time the recordings were made, and the suit alleges that the videos and pictures were "shared, disseminated and displayed" with other people by the former co-worker, Arturo Montano. The 24-year-old is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

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None of the four are named in the suit and are only identified as Jane Does.

"Our clients were injured, and they are seeking their day in court to be able to get justice for what happened to them," said Paul Mones, the women's attorney.

The suit claims that officials had knowledge of complaints levied against Montano regarding his inappropriate behavior toward female colleagues that included "sexual name-calling and inappropriate touching" prior to the recordings being discovered.

According to the lawsuit, the city made male and female employees change in a room called the "lifeguard office." It is described as having a refrigerator, sink and microwave.

It also had a "door handle which did not permit persons inside the office to lock the door," according to the suit. The four women had complained to supervisors multiple times about the need for a lockable door and experienced several instances of people walking in on them while they were changing, according to the lawsuit.

The suit also claims that the city retaliated against the four when they attempted to file claims for damages regarding the recording incidents by reducing their work hours.

Montano, who began working at the pool in 2009, was arrested on June 22, 2016, after a co-worker discovered the hidden camera phone he used to photograph or record female co-workers in the lifeguard office. Police eventually recovered images and videos of several adult and juvenile victims from Montano's phone and personal computer.

A hidden camera was also used to record women using the restroom at the pool, according to the Burbank Police Department.

Montano pleaded no contest on Oct. 21, 2016, to multiple counts of annoying or molesting minors under 18 and invasion of privacy, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office website. He received 10 years of probation and was required to register as a sex offender.

City officials said they took immediate action against Montano once they were told of the hidden-camera incidents, according to a statement released on Wednesday.

"He never returned to work after his arrest and was terminated from his city employment," according to the statement. "Additionally, the city obtained an order prohibiting him from approaching or contacting the victims or city's aquatic facility."

The city hadn't been served a copy of the suit when the statement was issued, but officials disputed the allegations that were made public.

Officials said they had no prior knowledge of the women being walked in on while changing and said there was "no evidence that the videotapes were ever shared, disseminated or displayed to others according to the police investigation."

The statement also mentioned that Burbank takes claims of sexual harassment and retaliation seriously, but no retaliation punishment was given to the four women over their claim. It also said it was policy for employees not to change in the lifeguard office.

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"Ultimately, this matter stems from Mr. Montano's criminal actions," according to the statement.

The four women are seeking unspecified damages from the city and Montano as they have "suffered and continue to suffer emotional distress, humiliation, mental anguish and embarrassment" resulting from the incident, the suit claims.

Twitter: @Andy_Truc

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