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Lawsuit accuses Hollister city manager of sexual harassment

An unnamed female city employee claims Brett Miller has a history of harassment and intimidation against her and three other employees.

A longtime female Hollister employee has filed a lawsuit against the city, accusing City Manager Brett Miller of sexual harassment spanning more than 10 years.

The city was notified of the lawsuit on May 20, which lists the city of Hollister and Miller as defendants. Law firms in Salinas and Los Angeles are representing an unnamed plaintiff, referred to as Jane Doe, in the civil case. The suit asks for damages of more than $25,000 and compensatory damages for sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA); sex discrimination in violation of FEHA; failure to investigate and prevent sexual harassment and discrimination in violation of FEHA; and intentional infliction of emotional destress.

The suit, filed at San Benito County Superior Court on March 14, states that Jane Doe has been employed by the city’s Development Services Department for 16 years and that she has been subjected to intensified sexual harassment and discrimination by Miller, who she has worked with for 10 years. The suit claims Miller’s “unwelcome sexual conduct steadily increased as he appeared to more comfortable around the plaintiff. As a result, plaintiff has become increasingly fearful of approaching Mr. Miller at the workplace, as his suggestive stares and comments became an almost daily occurrence.”

Doe claims in the suit that Miller “has made unwelcome and unprovoked comments about plaintiff’s body.” She also claims Miller made comments about seeing her at home during non-working hours. She claimed he said he looked for her while golfing near her home. “I saw you in your backyard. You ignored me,” Doe claimed he told her.

According to court records, she made a formal complaint of harassment and discrimination against Miller in November 2020, “regarding an unacceptable and a hostile work environment.” She further claimed at least three other female employees felt the same way but are afraid to come forward. An investigation was conducted but Doe felt it was not impartial and, according to her, the city has not informed her of the results of the investigation. She said instead of disciplining or terminating him, “the city has chosen to protect Mr. Miller.”

Doe claimed the three female employees, who were mentioned by name in the suit, complained about Miller’s inappropriate behavior to Diana Hillstock, who was human resources manager before and after he was promoted to city manager. She said another female employee complained to Hillstock in 2016 about Miller’s inappropriate behavior toward her. Doe claimed Hillstock was aware of numerous complaints but said she would not do anything unless an employee was willing to sign a formal complaint.

Doe further claimed that because of Miller’s actions she has “suffered and continues to suffer pain, humiliation, severe emotional distress, trauma, and sleeplessness.” She is seeking repayment of lost wages and earning capacity, as well as compensatory damages for pain and suffering, along with punitive damages, interest, and attorney’s fees.

Miller responded to BenitoLink, “This is a personnel matter, so no comment.”

Former city manager Bill Avera, who retired in 2019 after 25 years, told BenitoLink, “I never had any complaints about Brett while I was with him.” Avera worked with both Miller and Jane Doe.

Neither Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez nor Diana Hillstock responded to BenitoLink’s request for comment. Doe’s Salinas-based attorneys, Fitzpatrick & Swanston, had no comment regarding the case.

 

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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a BenitoLink reporter and an author. He has many years' experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]