UC Davis employees sue UC Regents, alleging wrongful termination after reporting abuse

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Two former custodial services employees at UC Davis filed a complaint against the UC Board of Regents, alleging they were fired after being vocal about an abusive relationship between two employees in 2016.

The case was filed Thursday by the plaintiff’s lawyer in Alameda County Superior Court. Former employees Saleshni Singh and William Rumley brought the complaint against the defendants — UC Regents and Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Management at UC Davis, Allen Tollefson. Singh and Rumley alleged in the complaint that they lost their jobs “as a direct result of” their complaints after Singh was mentally and physically abused by Om Sharma, a former employee at UC Davis whom Singh supervised.

Sharma was a spiritual leader in the Indian faith-based community as well as a spiritual leader for Singh and her family. In 2016, the relationship between Sharma and Singh became physically abusive, causing Singh to have visible bruises and be hospitalized, according to the documents.

The complaint alleged that Sharma once pulled the parking brake in Singh’s car, which caused them to crash into a ditch. The abuse allegedly occurred in the workplace as well, causing Singh to feel unsafe at work.

According to the complaint, Rumley — Singh’s workplace director — observed her bruises and reported the abuse to his superior, Tollefson, in November 2016. Rumley and Singh alleged in the complaint that Tollefson did not take reasonable measures to investigate the report or create a safe working environment.

After Rumley’s report, the defendants put Singh on administrative leave in December 2016 and started an investigation, which later found that Singh was indeed a victim of abuse.

Despite confirming the abuse, the defendants sent a notice to terminate Singh’s employment in February 2017, on the grounds that she was in a “consensual ‘dating’ relationship” with Sharma and attempted to “inappropriately change his work schedule.” The complaint alleges that the defendants failed to provide Singh with a “fair, neutral, and unbiased pre or post termination hearing.”

According to the plaintiffs, Singh’s case was also brought up during a campus violence committee, where her allegations were “openly mocked.”

In July 2017, Rumley’s employment was also terminated. The complaint alleges that Rumley was not provided “procedural due process protections prior to making the decision to terminate his employment,” according to the case documents.

The complaint lists five causes for legal action, including violations of U.S. California constitutions. One is a violation of California Labor Code that “prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who makes a complaint, including a verbal complaint, or participates in any investigation pertaining to health and safety in the workplace,” according to the case documents.

Another action in the complaint alleges the “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” claiming there was no consideration for the health, safety and legal rights of those involved.

Rumley and Singh are demanding a trial by jury and are seeking “equitable remedy of reinstatement of back pay” and other relief the court may deem appropriate.

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