The #MeToo movement is now hitting California schools, but it’s not what most would expect.
Two former custodians at the Stanislaus Union School District in Modesto suing over claims of sexual harassment, discrimination and whistle blower retaliation by a former principal at Mary Lou Dietrich Elementary, and they told KXTV they were inspired by #MeToo to speak out about the situation.
Alfredo Pinon, 46, and 39-year-old Bobin Lal said they hope to inspire other men to speak up about sexual harassment become “things like this happen to guys, and it’s horrible.”
“We knew by Hollywood, politics and now school district level, everyone needs to just step up and talk about it,” Pinon said. “Hopefully we can make a difference. I don’t know what this is going to do, but all I know is this is our time.”
And it’s been a long time coming.
Both men filed lawsuits against the district after they alleged they were fired on trumped up charges designed to push them out after they complained about “unwelcome touching” and “inappropriate sexual comments” from former principal Annette Roberts-Murray, who has since left the district and declined to comment.
The men contend they complained to their direct supervisor, filed several grievances, and requested transfers to a different school to avoid the harassment, but allege district officials ignored the problem.
“I even told my supervisor … she’s touching me. I don’t know what she’s trying to do,” Lal told KXTV. “He’d say good luck to you guys. You’re on your own.”
The lawsuits allege the men also asked for and never received respiratory masks to use with a thermo-compactor that melted and compacted Styrofoam lunch trays, and eventually reported the issue to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration when they were sickened by the fumes, according to the news site.
OSHA fined the district, and Pinion and Lal both lost their jobs.
“Clearly it’s our allegation that that was the continuation of the retaliation,” attorney Robert Biegler said. “They were looking for a reason to get rid of them and they did.”
The men claim they suffered “humiliation” and “severe emotional distress” and required counseling. Both claim they’ve struggled to find new employment.
“It has ruined my quality of life,” Lal said. “My sexual relationship with my girlfriend at the time – I don’t even have one no more – because I have a hard time dealing with just certain things because of what happened.”
District officials declined to comment about the lawsuits to KXTV, though the school attorney issued a statement alleging the lawsuits have “no merit,” and “are simply costing the public and Stanislaus Union School District unnecessary legal fees and time.”