Former student employee files massive lawsuit against SBCC

Former+Student+Trustee+Krystle+Farmer+expresses+her+outrage+with+The+Board+of+Trustees%27+actions+on+Thursday%2C+Feb.+14%2C++2019%2C+at+The+Wake+Campus+in+Santa+Barbara%2C+Calif.
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Former student employee files massive lawsuit against SBCC

Former Student Trustee Krystle Farmer expresses her outrage with The Board of Trustees' actions on Thursday, Feb. 14,  2019, at The Wake Campus in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Former Student Trustee Krystle Farmer expresses her outrage with The Board of Trustees' actions on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, at The Wake Campus in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Lauren Michelle McGee

Former Student Trustee Krystle Farmer expresses her outrage with The Board of Trustees' actions on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, at The Wake Campus in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Lauren Michelle McGee

Lauren Michelle McGee

Former Student Trustee Krystle Farmer expresses her outrage with The Board of Trustees' actions on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, at The Wake Campus in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Delaney Smith, Editor-in-Chief

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Former City College student Krystle Farmer is suing the college and Director of Equity Luis Giraldo over eight different allegations— with sexual harassment, gender and racial discrimination amongst the complaints.

In addition to those three allegations, Farmer is suing over workplace retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination, wrongful termination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation.

“Racism, sexism, harassment and discrimination are very alive and happening in our own lives all around us every day,” Farmer said about why she filed the lawsuit. “…I am being an example for other women through this case.

“By standing up for myself I am proof that you don’t have to tolerate that behavior and succumb to the awful conditions we’re put in as women.”

Farmer first enrolled as a City College student in June 2013 but left to work full time. She returned and worked as a student employee from Nov. 22, 2016 through Aug. 26, 2018.

She initially began her employment with the college’s Equity Department, a department funded by the State Equity Fund for community colleges to advocate for underrepresented students. The department is overseen by Giraldo, who Farmer made the majority of her complaints against.

The lawsuit alleges he:

  • Favored Latino students over other minorities.
  • Paid female employees less than their male counterparts.
  • Excluded her from equity meetings and made derogatory remarks about her.
  • Withheld half of her paycheck and cut her hours as a form of retaliation.
  • Sexually harassed her via text messages and in-person conversations.
  • Made a false statement that she made sexual advances towards him to an SBCC Foundation employee.

The Channels reached out to Giraldo but he declined to comment.

Farmer initially filed a tort claim against the college on Oct. 8, 2018, but it was rejected Jan. 10, 2019.

The Channels contacted the college’s legal counsel Craig Price, Public Information Officer Luz Reyes-Martin and Trustee Jonathan Abboud but all three parties declined to comment on the claim rejection or lawsuit.

Farmer also filed a Title IX complaint against Giraldo Jan. 26, 2018. Nearly eight months later on Sep. 16, 2018, Vice President of Human Resources Monalisa Hasson issued a report on it. According to the court documents, the investigation uncovered both racial and gender disparity issues within the Equity Department, specifically with Giraldo, but nothing was done to further remedy or investigate the claims.

Court documents described Giraldo’s late-night text messages to Farmer as “effusive and filled with heart emojis, which made her feel uncomfortable.” It also stated that Giraldo engaged in inappropriate conversations about his ex-wife and his “current sexual relationship.”

The Channels reached out to Hasson for a comment on the Title IX investigation but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Hasson interviewed Wendy Aguilera, also a former student in the Equity Department. Aguilera was quoted in the lawsuit saying “Giraldo flirts with women, but then if he doesn’t get his way, he starts treating you differently.”

Aguilera also confirmed the allegation that there was a disparity in pay based on gender. She reported in court documents that she was paid $14 an hour, when a male student was paid $16 an hour for the same work.

In addition to Aguilera’s assertion the she was paid less as a female, Farmer alleged in the lawsuit that Giraldo withheld half of her pay as a form of retaliation because she spoke out against the “discrimination and marginalization of black students.” The documents claim 80 percent of Equity Department programming time was spent on Latino students after Giraldo took over.

As a result of the pay cut, Farmer said she was forced to resign from her position on Nov. 1, 2017. She went without a job until she took a new position with Umoja, a transfer success program geared towards black and other minority students, on Jan. 8, 2018. Seven months later on Aug. 24, 2018, Farmer was notified that Umoja was merged into the Equity Department.

After she contested the merger due to her adverse relationship with Giraldo, she was told by Hasson on Aug. 26 that she was no longer employed by the college, according to the lawsuit. Hasson told Farmer she could apply for a position in Enrollment Services, but Farmer called the offer a demotion due to the job’s duties and responsibilities appearing menial compared to her position in Umoja.

Farmer is now taking fully online classes at Los Angeles Pacific University because of “how traumatic [her] time was at SBCC.” She said the experience caused her to question her career path and her ability to do “social justice work.”

“I was so tired of fighting for the right to exist,” she said. “It was a fight in classrooms, student government and the workplace.”

 

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