Claremont Colleges settle sexual harassment lawsuit with former employee over wrongful termination

A tan colored building labelled "Campus Safety" sits next to trees and cacti.
A settlement has been reached between the Claremont Colleges and a woman who claimed she was fired for reporting a co-worker for sexually harassing her. (Alyssa Leong • The Student Life)

CW: Contains mentions of sexual harassment 

The Claremont Colleges reached a settlement last month with former employee Brittany Hiroto after she sued them for firing her in 2019 following her complaints of sexual harassment by a coworker. 

Hiroto was hired in 2009 as a telephone operator in The Claremont Colleges Services’ IT department, according to legal filings, and promoted to the position of administrative support specialist in March 2017.

According to Hiroto, she reported in 2018 to her supervisor Monty Veerachaylukana that she was being sexually harassed by Mike Freese, who was then the telecommunications supervisor for TCCS. Hiroto was in her late 20s at the time while Freese was nearly 60.

According to Hiroto’s lawsuit, Freese passed sexual comments to Hiroto that made her uncomfortable. Around 2016, he began asking her out for drinks, she said, and in 2017 he reportedly grabbed her inappropriately. Freese would also approach Hiroto while she was working and massage her shoulders, she said, something he had allegedly done with other female employees as well. 

Freese had a reputation for being vulgar and outspoken in the workplace, according to Hiroto’s lawsuit. Other TCCS employees’ response to Freese’s behavior was that “Mike [was] just being Mike.” In 2018, another female TCCS employee complained about Freese’s vulgarities but no action was taken against him, filings said.

Hiroto alleged that after reporting the harassment to Veerachaylukana, relations soured between the two. Veerachaylukana told Hiroto that she was “forbidden from speaking with any of her team members,” the complaint alleges.

Hiroto also reported that she felt as though Veerachaylukana was “intentionally bullying her… and setting her up for failure.” Three years later, she was fired for lying to her supervisor about her whereabouts, according to the Claremont Colleges’ court filings. 

Hiroto then filed a case in 2019 against TCCS for wrongful termination. Lawyers for the Claremont Colleges denied any wrongdoing.

Hiroto’s attorney Eduardo Olivo filed court papers with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon, stating a settlement had been reached, local news outlet Patch reported. No terms were disclosed.

TCCS declined to comment.

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