City of San Diego Sees Drastic Increase in Sexual Harassment Claims for 2017

NBC 7's Wendy Fry reports on the significant increase in sexual harassment claims filed by city employees in 2017.

(Published Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018)

Sexual harassment complaints within the city of San Diego increased sharply in 2017, according to a story first reported in the San Diego Union Tribune and confirmed Tuesday by city officials.

Complaints rose from five in 2016 to 19 in 2017, according to data from the city.

A spokeswoman for the city declined to comment on what could be causing the increased number of complaints.

"The City of San Diego takes all complaints seriously, has a strict Equal Employment Opportunity policy and conducts a thorough investigation for every complaint it receives," read a statement from the city.

Outside City Hall on Tuesday, many people speculated the rise in complaints could be because women feel more empowered to report workplace abuse after the #MeToo movement.

"I just wish we had listened to Anita Hill," said one teacher who declined to give her name. "She was trying to tell us what has been going on for eternity," the woman said, referring to the highly televised U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.

Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment while she worked as his assistant in the Department of Education, and later in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"I'll just say one thing, which is we should all take it upon ourselves to ensure that women feel the support they need to come forward with anything that goes on," said a San Diego business executive.

Brian Jones said he and his business partners were just sitting down to review sexual harassment polices for their new company.

"It's important for us all to be extra mindful now so we don't just leave these things as assumptions, but so they are explicitly stated in company policies," said Jones.

A city spokesman said all city employees conduct mandatory annual training to help prevent sexual harassment.

That training was completed in November for the City of San Diego, with 100 percent participation from every employee, said City Official Jose Ysea in an emailed statement to NBC 7.