A Sacramento State employee has sued the university claiming he was sexually harassed by Alexander Gonzalez Jr. – the university president’s son – and faced retaliation after reporting the abuse.
Jeffrey Sharp claims that Gonzalez touched him and made suggestive actions and offensive comments when they worked together in the Office of University Advancement, which raises money for the university.
The university and Gonzalez Jr. filed a response to Sharp’s lawsuit denying the allegations and alleging that Sharp did not follow the proper procedure for filing complaints.
Sharp said the harassment began after he was transferred to the office in the fall of 2008.
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He complained to co-workers, superiors and the university’s human resources department, but officials took no action and the harassment continued, according to the suit.
“We think the evidence is very strong that he was harassed and that he didn’t welcome it in any way,” said Jack Vetter, Sharp’s attorney on Wednesday. “The guy was his boss and he tried to get along. At one point, Alex Jr. told him he was in love with him.”
Vetter said the harassment continued after Sharp told Gonzalez he wasn’t interested in a relationship.
The lawsuit – filed in March – names California State University, Sacramento, and Alexander Gonzalez Jr. as the defendants.
“The University and Alex Gonzalez Jr. are vigorously defending against all the claims made by Mr. Sharp in his lawsuit,” said Nancy Sheehan, an attorney representing the university, in a statement. “There is substantial evidence that is inconsistent with Mr. Sharp’s claim that he was subjected to unwanted contact of any nature. Rather, the evidence is consistent with a collegial relationship between two co-workers.”
She added that the CSU Chancellor’s Office conducted “a thorough, objective investigation, including interviewing Mr. Sharp and Mr. Gonzalez Jr. The evidence did not substantiate the claims of sexual harassment or retaliation.”
Vetter responded that the university investigation was “affected by the connections of the alleged harasser, whether that was out of respect for him or his father or out of some manipulation we don’t know yet.”
Gonzalez Jr. could not be reached for comment.
Sharp was retaliated against for his complaints, demoted and denied raises and promotions, according to the suit. He contends he lost wages, incurred medical expenses and suffered embarrassment, mental anguish and physical injury stemming from the alleged harassment. He is asking for unspecified damages, as well as attorney’s fees from CSUS.
In response, the university is asking for reimbursement of its own attorney’s fees and other costs related to its legal defense.
Vetter said that Sharp’s career has been on a downward trajectory since he complained about Gonzalez.
Sharp left his job as a a temporary full-time administrative analyst in the Office of University Advancement in 2012 and currently works as a permanent, full-time communications specialist in alumni relations at the university, said Kimberly Nava, university spokeswoman.
Sharp held temporary positions from 2009-2011 that paid between $48,000 and $55,000 annually. The permanent job he took in 2012 involved a pay reduction to $43,200 a year. Nava said that is the same amount he made in 2008 as a permanent CSUS worker with the same classification he has now.
Gonzalez Jr. left his position as director of development in the Advancement Office in 2012 and accepted another position outside of the California State University system, Nava said. She did not know where he is currently employed. The university hired Alexander Gonzalez Jr. in 2005 as an associate director of development – a $72,000-a-year fundraising job.
The case is likely to go to trial late next year, according to Vetter.