Cortines’ sexual harassment accuser says he was terminated in retaliation
Craig Clough | July 16, 2015
Despite widespread praise for his leadership of LA Unified, including standing ovations at recent school board meetings, Superintendent Ramon Cortines finds himself facing a familiar adversary, a veteran district employee who is now accusing the district of firing him in retaliation for his past lawsuits against Cortines.
Scot Graham, who accused Cortines of sexual harassment in three previous lawsuits, is claiming in a new one that they cost him his job. He was dismissed by the district in April after 15 years as Director of Real Estate.
“As a direct and proximate result of the unlawful acts of Defendants, Plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer from loss of earnings and other damages,” Graham says in his lawsuit, filed in a Los Angeles state Superior Court.
LA Unified spokeswoman Shannon Haber said the district would not comment on personnel matters.
Graham’s accusations came to light in 2012, a year after Cortines had retired from his second of three periods serving as superintendent. Graham claimed Cortines made a series of unwanted sexual advances and comments toward him dating back to 2000 when Graham was first hired as Director of Real Estate and Cortines was running the district during his first stint. Two previous lawsuits never made it to court, as one was dismissed and the other was withdrawn.
Cortines has denied any wrongdoing while admitting only that he had a sexual encounter with Graham.
When Cortines returned to run the district last October, Graham was still working at LA Unified. He filed a third lawsuit in February that repeated the previous accusations, only with added details of alleged disparaging and sexually-tinged remarks Cortines had made about district leaders. Graham went on medical leave in October, according to the February lawsuit and the new complaint, as a result of stress-related medical problems caused by Cortines’s return.
Graham’s new complaint says he received a letter from the district informing him that his medical leave had been exhausted, and, “effective April 16, 2015, your name was placed on a reemployment list for 39 months. . .If you wish to request additional unpaid leave, please direct your request to your former supervisor.”
The complaint also said, “This letter effectively removed Mr. Graham from his position as Director of Real Estate of the LAUSD, and therefore terminated him from his employment with the LAUSD. In violation of the California Education Code, he was terminated before given an opportunity to request additional unpaid leave — required under the Education Code — therefore, rendering any ostensible invitation to request additional unpaid leave completely meaningless.”
Graham’s lawsuit claims that he was terminated in direct retaliation forthe previous lawsuits, in which he also accused the district of retaliation, in the form of reducing his managerial duties.
The new lawsuit only names the district as a defendant and does not include Cortines as a specific defendant, as the February suit did. It also claims Graham was discriminated against because of his medical disability, which he says evolved from a toxic working environment he said Cortines created.