BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — A UC Berkeley employee has filed a lawsuit against the UC Regents and a colleague, claiming that she was the victim of harassment and experienced a hostile work environment after a colleague sent her a series of disturbing text messages.
Zulema Lara, an administrative coordinator at the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Resource Center, said the harassment began in October 2017 when an employee named Nathaniel Knight, who was working as a lab manager, sent her a string of more than 20 inappropriate text messages over a two-and-a-half-hour period.
“He was talking about, ‘I’m coming to get you,’ which was very frightening,” Lara said. “He was talking about giving me money. He was talking about just, I guess, being in love with me.”
According to court records, one of the text messages read: “I am coming unless you say to f— off and if you do I still want you to at least design the tattoo of your name that must be on the front upper part of my leg.” Another mentions “rubbing lotion on Zulema’s tummy.” Lara said that text was particularly devastating.
“Earlier that year, we had a lost our baby,” she explained. “I was five months pregnant. He mentions me being pregnant and I fell apart.”
Lara said she filed a police report with the Hercules Police Department and informed her supervisors at work. She said Knight took a three-month leave of absence, but returned in February 2018 as if nothing had happened.
“I then run into him maybe a week later while he’s coming out of one of the buildings and I panicked,” she said. “I wasn’t told. I wasn’t given a notice.” Lara said she remains traumatized and now suffers from anxiety.
Lara’s attorney, John Winer of Winer, McKenna, Burritt and Tillis, said UC Berkeley has failed other victims of harassment in the past and this is another example of that.
“It’s incredible that he’s still working there particularly in the same department as Zulema,” he said.
Lara said she feels that the university let her down. “I felt like the system protected his needs and I felt like he somehow for some reason became the victim,” she said.
A spokesperson for UC Berkeley did not comment on the lawsuit. KPIX 5 placed calls to Knight, but he did not respond.