L.A. County Clerk Scarred from Years of Sexual Harassment

by / / News

In 1989, Ms. McPhillips was hired as a clerk by Los Angeles County Probation Department. She enjoyed her job with the county for nearly 18 years until the day Senior Deputy Probation Officer David Belfer became her supervisor in 2007.

McPhillips describes the moment he became her supervisor as, “The starting point of several years of sexual harassment.”

The first two years, McPhillips recalls, the harassment was subtle. Belfer would wink at her or frequently walk by her cubicle.

Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. In 2009, Belfer took his sexual advances further. McPhillips remembers how the sexual harassment went from a wink, to an unwanted shoulder massage.

In an interview, McPhillips describes the extent of the sexual harassment. “Belfer would brush his body against me, sit on my lap, pinch my cheeks and my butt, blow kisses, stalk me on lunch breaks, and wait for me after hours in the parking lot,” she shuttered at the memory.

McPhillips also stated Belfer often made inappropriate comments that many of her coworkers witnessed. Another supervisor even noted that Belfer once said, “This is my harem, these girls do what I say.”

One incident, he called McPhillips into his office to read something off his computer screen. When McPhillips replied that she couldn’t read it, Belfer said, “It says here that if you to go bed without any underwear on you lose weight.” McPhillips stormed out of his office.

On several other occasions, Belfer called McPhillips into his office and showed her photos of his girlfriend in various stages of undress. Belfer blatantly exploited his power as a supervisor to intimidate McPhillips. He repeatedly told her, “I have a badge. You’re just a clerk. No one will believe you.”

McPhillips began dreading going into work because she couldn’t escape the sexual harassment. She confessed, “Sunday nights I would have emotional breakdowns just thinking about the next day at work.”

The final straw came when Belfer entered McPhillips’ cubicle and aggressively rubbed her shoulders while stating, “Julie, Julie, Julie, how many write ups am I going to have to give you?” She pulled away with tears in her eyes and yelled at him to stop, only to receive a laugh as a response from Belfer.

McPhillips filed a complaint to Human Resources in October 2013 but the harassment continued for months. During this time McPhillips conveyed that she experienced retaliation from Belfer. It was later discovered that the HR director was “good friends” with Senior Deputy Belfer. In Ms. McPhillips complaint of sexual harassment below, she is ultimately told to keep quiet about the abuse.

In March 2014, McPhillips was abruptly informed that she was being transferred to another office. In the email below, McPhillips is repeatedly told she cannot return, under any circumstances, to the office she was loyal to for over a decade.

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McPhillips, who had long-lasting friendships with many coworkers at her office, couldn’t believe that she was being punished in order to protect Belfer’s reputation. After 14 years with the Haynes Probation Information Unit, she was forced to relocate to a new office where she didn’t know anyone.

It wasn’t until at least two other women came forward with similar sexual harassment experiences with Belfer that he was transferred out. Unbelievably, he was able to keep his job and retire before he could be terminated.

McPhillips was able to transfer back to her original location, but the emotional scars didn’t fade.

McPhillips has retained Jorgensen & Salberg to recover compensation for the emotional damages caused by Belfer’s predatory behavior. The firm is seeking compensation for the county’s negligence in refusing to terminate Belfer even after multiple reports of sexual harassment.