LANCASTER – A former vice principal and a onetime teacher for a Lancaster middle school are suing the district where they formerly worked, alleging they were forced to quit because their school principal viewed female employees as “objects of sexual desire and sex-based ridicule.”
Dawn Dolinski and Jody Finks filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against the Eastside Union School District and Francisco Pinto, principal of Gifford Cole Middle School.
The suit alleges hostile work environment, retaliation, sex discrimination and negligent hiring, supervision and retention. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
A district representative could not be immediately reached. Pinto was previously fired from another school district after a sex-related harassment complaint was filed against him, the suit states.
Dolinski, 42, of Phelan, was hired by the district in June 2015 as a special education teacher at Cole School and was promoted to vice principal for the 2016-17 school year, the suit states. Finks, 52, of Palmdale, obtained her teaching job at the same campus in August 2009, according to the lawsuit.
Dolinski worked in the school’s administrative offices alongside Pinto, the suit states.
“Soon after Ms. Dolinski began working for Principal Pinto, she became aware that (he) held a deep-seeded animus and harmful sexist views toward the female teachers and staff at Cole Middle School,” according to the lawsuit. “In particular, (he) viewed female teachers and staff as objects of sexual desire and sex-based ridicule.”
Pinto expected the female staff members to “act in a submissive manner and be subservient to me,” according to the complaint.
Dolinski was “bombarded with misogynistic comments and behavior” by Pinto during her time as vice principal, the suit states. Once after smelling a co-worker cooking fish, Pinto said the odor “must be coming from Ms. Dolinski’s genitals,” the suit states.
Pinto regularly called Dolinski “Double D,” a dual reference to her initials and to the bra size of a woman, the suit states.
While discussing a teacher’s breasts and decision not to wear a bra, Pinto and another administrator commented, “that’s how she got her husband,” the suit states.
Dolinski tried but failed using moderate language to try and convince Pinto to change his behavior, the complaint states. She subsequently became more direct, but Pinto “doubled down on his offensive remarks,” the suit states.
“Deal with it or resign,” Pinto told Dolinski, the complaint alleges.
Pinto also stripped Dolinski of some of her duties and assigned her less desirable tasks, the suit states. Despite a Cole School tradition, he told her she could not be on stage to shake hands with students during a pupil promotion ceremony and instead directed her to supervise the courtyard, the suit states.
In an allegedly retaliatory action against Finks, Pinto canceled the school’s Student Government True Leader Program because she objected to his “sexist views of the submissive female,” the suit states.
Pinto also cut the school’s California Cadet Corps course, waiting until orientation day and knowing that Finks spent much of the previous summer preparing for the program, the suit states.
Pinto’s decision to end the cadet program on orientation day was “a clear attempt to retaliate against her and break her will,” according to the lawsuit.
Both women suffered emotional distress from working under Pinto, the suit states. Dolinski, who relocated from Phoenix to take the Cole job, quit in June and Finks in July, the suit states.
The suit identifies two other teachers, Kristin Cole and Joyce Pincetich, as also allegedly targeted by Pinto for resisting him. During the 2015-16 school year, 15 of 17 grievances filed in the district were against Pinto, putting the district on notice of his alleged misconduct, the suit states.