Complaint filed against UCOP executive for alleged racial, sexual harassment, discrimination

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Update 04/08/19: This article has been updated to reflect information from UC spokesperson Amy Weitz.

UC employee Elizabeth Rodriguez-Dias filed a complaint against the UC Regents after she was allegedly harassed and discriminated against by her boss Dr. John Stobo, the executive vice president at UC Health.

Rodriguez-Dias was employed by the UC Regents in 1999 as an assistant analyst in the Space Sciences Laboratory. In 2010, she began working for the University of California Office of the President, or UCOP, where she worked as a budget coordinator and director of finance for UC Health under Stobo.  In 2018, Rodriguez-Dias left UCOP due to a mental breakdown that required medical leave.

“The University of California Office of the President is aware of the allegations made by a former employee against the executive vice president of UC Health,” sad UC spokesperson Amy Weitz in an email. “The University … is unable to comment on personnel matters that may be under investigation.”

According to the complaint, which was sent to the Superior Court of California, Stobo allegedly harassed and discriminated against the plaintiff based on race, ethnicity, national origin and sex on a consistent basis. The harassment allegedly included “abusive tirades that regularly led her to tears,” according to the complaint.

“All of this harassment, sexual harassment, abuse in her job, led her to have a nervous breakdown — she was devastated, is still devastated,” said Alex Austin, the plaintiff’s lawyer. “I am in full support of her not going back to her job, horrifying situation.”

The complaint document describes instances in which  Stobo’s harassment and discrimination were “sexual in nature.” Stobo allegedly insisted that part of Rodriguez-Dias’ job included giving him a back massage with a vibrating massager, once telling Rodriguez-Dias that “his wife did not like touching him,” according to the complaint. He also allegedly called Rodriguez-Dias derogatory names repeatedly, and stared at her body inappropriately, making Rodriguez-Dias feel humiliated and uncomfortable, according to the complaint.

Dr. Stobo’s harassment and discrimination also targeted her accent, according to the complaint. Stobo allegedly told Rodriguez-Dias that “no one can understand you” on a consistent basis and called her an “Italian princess.”

“Referring to grown professional women as ‘princesses’ is highly offensive, misogynistic and derogatory, ethnicity- based and gender-based terms,” the complaint says.

In 2015, Rodriguez-Dias reported the alleged harassment and discrimination to supervisory personnel, which resulted in a consultant meeting with Rodriguez-Dias to “coach” her in navigating the alleged harassment, according to the complaint. In 2017, Rodriguez-Dias again reported Stobo to a public interest investigator, which allegedly again failed to stop the discrimination and harassment.

“Some of the things that he did were really quite egregious,” said Austin. “When you have an incredible, brilliant Latino woman who has a bit of an accent and in important meetings he would yell “translation please!”— it’s just incredibly demeaning.”

Contact Brennan Havens at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BrennanHavens.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Elizabeth Rodriguez-Dias is a UC Board of Regents employee. In fact, she is a UC employee.