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Lynwood mayor pro tem steps away from duties amid workplace sexual harassment probe

Lynwood Mayor Pro Tem Edwin Hernandez has agreed to relinquish his position as the city investigates allegations of sexual harassment made against him by a female city employee, officials said.

The city issued a statement Saturday, saying the allegations under review are “serious and troubling” and that it follows a zero-tolerance policy against those who are the focus of claims or complaints of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment or intimidating conduct.

“The City Council has directed that a full and complete investigation be conducted by an independent third party to delve into the allegations presented,” the statement said.

L.A. Weekly first reported on Tuesday that a Lynwood employee had filed a complaint against Hernandez, alleging that he made unwanted sexual advances toward her.

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His actions “intimidated and publicly mortified her,” the woman’s attorney, Lisa Bloom of the Bloom Law Firm, wrote in a letter to the city. The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, also feared for her job.

The letter, obtained by the L.A. Weekly, noted some examples of Hernandez’s alleged behavior, including one instance in which he sent the employee a text, commenting, “You look so good in that blue shirt. Hmmm.” In another instance, he allegedly asked the woman to step out of her office and said, “I want to kiss your pink lips.”

Hernandez, who has served on the council since 2013, has not commented on the allegations.

In an interview with The Times on Sunday, Bloom said she and her client, who has worked for the city for more than 10 years and has received good performance reviews, are frustrated by the city’s slow response. She said her client first notified the city of the harassment complaint in December and then again with a written grievance in January.

“Nothing happened, so she came to me,” Bloom said. “They already knew everything by the time she contacted me. It’s really an intolerable situation.”

She said a lawsuit was “very likely.”

“This is not just about sexual harassment,” Bloom said. “This is about a failure to investigate and to comply with the law.”

Although Hernandez will remain on the council, the city said in its statement that he has agreed to relinquish his position as mayor pro tem. He will also be removed from all committees or outside agency assignments and will not interact with any city employees or officials pending the outcome of the investigation.

In addition, Hernandez will not attend any city events or visit City Hall during this period and only participate in City Council meetings by telephonic conference call.

But Bloom said that she does not believe that Hernandez should remain on the council in any capacity.

“I think he should be removed from everything,” she said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to have that position while investigating serious harassment allegations.”

carlos.lozano@latimes.com


UPDATES:

2:05 p.m.: This article was updated with new comments from the attorney representing the city employee who filed the harassment complaint.

This article was originally posted at 11:05 a.m.


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