Alleged Sexual Harasser Cites President-Elect’s Comments as Legal Defense
Public official allegedly offered subordinate $1,000 to go to a hotel with him
“I was trying to lift her spirits,” David Gutierrez, former
Treasurer in Doña Ana County, CA, told the jury at his recent corruption
trial. He was attempting to explain his reasoning for allegedly offering
a subordinate $1,000 to spend a few hours in a hotel with him.
At trial, Gutierrez recounted his conversation with county teller Luz Olivia
Nuñez. “We were talking, and at one point in the conversation,
I told her that she was an attractive woman … and that anybody
would give her $1,000 for a couple of hours in the privacy of a hotel
room.” Under questioning, Gutierrez said that he meant the statement
as a compliment rather than a proposition, according to the
Las Cruces Sun-News.
Gutierrez’s attorney cited President-Elect’s Trump’s
recent comments about women as a defense. "(S)o many things were
said over the last year that were inappropriate by politicians who are
in office and want to be ... if those are not grossly immoral, how could
The attorney also stated: "There's a man who is going take office
on Jan. 1, 2017, the highest office in our land, who apparently, notwithstanding
the things he has said over the course of the last year or two, is fit
for office." [Note: The defense attorney’s statement about
the inauguration date is incorrect. Inauguration Day takes place on January
20th in the year following an election.]
This novel defense raises some interesting questions about what constitutes
acceptable or unacceptable behavior in terms of sexual harassment. Let’s
take a look at how this argument played out in court.
Has the definition of harassment changed?
Gutierrez lost his trial. He was stripped of his title and duties after
being found guilty of public corruption or gross immorality by public
official. He is currently
appealing the ruling.
Despite Gutierrez’s defense that certain sexual conversations are
now more socially acceptable, the legal definition of sexual harassment
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), unlawful
harassment “can include ‘sexual harassment’ or unwelcome
sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical
harassment of a sexual nature.”
Harassment may also include offensive comments based on someone’s
sex. Harassers and perpetrators may be male or female, and victims and
harassers may be of the same sex.
However, the law does not prohibit teasing, offhand comments, or isolated
incidents that are “not very serious.”
Contact us today
While sexual harassment is prohibited under federal law, many instances
of harassment may be open to interpretation. Because of that, victims
may find it challenging to have their complaints taken seriously.
That’s why women or men who feel that they have been sexually harassed
would be wise to speak to an attorney to find out more about their rights.
Keep in mind that some states and municipalities have their own laws pertaining
to sexual harassment, allowing victims to seek relief under multiple statutes.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.