The State Worker

Three sexual harassment lawsuits later, he's still working for the state of California

Follow this state worker through 3 sexual harassment lawsuits and 9 job moves

California state worker Dennis B. Kellogg was named in three sexual harassment lawsuits as he worked for six different departments, including State Parks, Corrections and the DMV.
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California state worker Dennis B. Kellogg was named in three sexual harassment lawsuits as he worked for six different departments, including State Parks, Corrections and the DMV.

Dennis B. Kellogg has spent nearly three decades as a California state employee.

He has moved nine times around six different departments in his tenure as a labor relations specialist – a strategy he says is common and even advantageous in that role.

Others say he has been shuffled around because of repeat allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation.

Kellogg has been the focus of three sexual harassment lawsuits, two of which settled in the last 10 years for $841,500. As recently as last December, he was promoted to be a labor relations manager in the California Department of Human Resources, whose responsibilities include protecting the civil rights of all state employees.

In March, he was terminated from that “limited term appointment” and is now back at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“He hurt a lot of people,” said Annette Unruh, who sued Kellogg, personnel officer Deborah Yue and the Department of Rehabilitation in 2006 over alleged sexual harassment and retaliation. Unruh’s case settled two years later for $276,500.

Annette Unruh talks about her sexual harassment suit against Dennis Kellogg and the California Department of Rehabilitation.

In a recent interview, Kellogg told The Bee he was so opposed to settling Unruh’s case that he initially refused to sign the agreement. The attorney general’s office, which had provided his defense, threatened to stop representing or indemnifying him if he persisted, according to an April 2008 letter from the AG’s office to his attorney.

Kellogg said he is not a serial harasser at all, and he vehemently denied the charges in all three lawsuits. He said the state let him down by settling two of them, despite his vigorous efforts to see them go to trial.

“The state of California is a soft target because they don’t stand up to these cases when the facts prove they should,” he said. “Allegations do not equate to factual truth.”

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How we did this series

Getting a handle on the scope of sexual harassment in California state government is a herculean task. How much does the behavior cost taxpayers? And what is the cost to human beings?
In its ongoing investigation, The Bee tackled these questions separately. After filing 41 Public Records Acts requests to the state’s largest entities, we reported in January that California had paid out more than $25 million in the last three fiscal years to settle sexual harassment claims.
The 99 settlements involved workers and supervisors at state agencies and public universities, but did not include the Legislature.
What the data didn’t reveal, though, were the experiences of state workers at the center of these controversies. We wanted to know what happens to the women and men who complain about sexual harassment – and what happens to the accused.
To understand the human impact, The Bee filed 19 more Public Records Act requests to departments, including the State Personnel Board, seeking the employment, salary and public disciplinary histories of accused perpetrators. These individuals had been identified earlier by those departments that had released settlement agreements.
Additionally, The Bee reviewed more than 2,500 pages of state and federal court records to obtain details of the complaints, and the opposing parties’ positions. Another eight sexual harassment cases within state agencies also were examined, on top of the original 99.
What emerged in the 107 cases was a hodgepodge of policies and protocols among the departments and agencies.
In California’s massive bureaucracy, The Bee found, there has been no mechanism to ensure that each department conducts investigations uniformly and follows consistent guidelines. Officials recently announced plans to address the problem.
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As a labor relations specialist, Kellogg advises a department on labor issues, interprets labor contracts and represents management during collective bargaining.

In the new “Me Too” era, Kellogg’s employment history stands out for the breadth of his inter-departmental travels, and the similarity of allegations among the three lawsuits.

All four plaintiffs, which included three women and one man, contended that Kellogg made sexually explicit remarks, hovered around co-workers or touched them and made unwanted sexual advances.

In September 2013, the last of the lawsuits – this one involving the Department of Parks and Recreation – settled for $565,000. Each of the plaintiffs, Dianne Chapin and Tammy Helie, received $158,885, while their San Francisco-based legal team was apportioned $247,230.

Chapin and Helie could not be reached for comment. But their lawsuit emphasized Kellogg’s work history and condemned the state for its “conduct of moving Kellogg from agency to agency” to prey on others.

Kellogg told The Bee that he did “absolutely nothing wrong – no violation of policy or law.”

A former supervisor told The Bee she believes Kellogg was a victim of “gossip, innuendo, outright lies and incompetence."

“I truly believe these are the factors that brought Dennis to this situation,” said Cheryl Combs-Lim, a former labor relations manager who had supervised Kellogg in his first stint at the Department of Industrial Relations in 2009.

Combs-Lim, who supports Kellogg, said she later played an unintended role in his troubles when he attempted to return to that department the following year.

In 2010, the Department of Industrial Relations rejected Kellogg during his probationary period, saying he had not revealed during his interview that he was under investigation for two charges of sexual harassment at the parks department, and had been named in two sexual harassment lawsuits at the Department of Rehabilitation.

Combs-Lim said she had advised Kellogg not to reveal that information unless he was specifically asked, an approach she believed was wholly supported by a previous State Personnel Board decision.

Kellogg lost his appeal of the DIR rejection.

The controversy continues.

In March – after only three months at Cal HR – he was terminated.

Kellogg had moved last December from the Department of Motor Vehicles into a “limited term appointment” as a labor relations manager at the human resources department. The position, however, was not permanent, and the department let him go in March.

Details of his termination have not yet been released by Cal HR under the Public Records Act.

Kellogg confirmed he was let go, and he is now back at the DMV, where he said he expects to stay. He said the termination had nothing to do with sexual harassment.

Today, 12 years after Annette Unruh filed her lawsuit, she said she cannot fathom how Kellogg continued to move around multiple departments over the years.

“Every manager who knew Dennis Kellogg and did nothing is complicit in the next person who got hurt,” she said. “There’s no accountability for them… There isn’t anyone who pays for it.”

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