By Calvin Alagot
A non-profit organization that coordinates events and keeps Old Pasadena's streets tidy is being sued by its Vice President of Operations Anna Grazioli, who alleges she's faced sex discrimination since her breast augmentation last year.
Grazioli sued in Superior Court last October, naming her employer, the Old Pasadena Management District, as well as its President and CEO Steve Mulheim and ten unidentified people involved with the district who she claims conspired in the discrimination.
Grazioli alleges that Mulheim suggested to co-workers that her success was thanks to her breasts. In her 29-page complaint she says that Mulheim said things like, “Send Anna out to take care of it. She and 'the girls' can get it done” – and that by “the girls,” he meant her breasts.
The attorney for Mulheim and the Old Pasadena Management District, Keith Fink of Fink and Steinberg, told LA Weekly, “This is one of the most ridiculous lawsuits that's ever been filed.”
But Lonnie Blanchard III of the Blanchard Law Group, representing Grazioli, says she has a great employment record and is well-liked in the Old Pasadena community.
Old Pasadena Management District oversees a Business Improvement District that spans 22-blocks of historically rich streets and commercial venues including the Rose Bowl, Central Park and Memorial Park. The district operates under a contract with the city of Pasadena.
According to her complaint:
At times relevant to this complaint, Grazioli was required to meet her supervisor, Steve Mulheim CEO/President of Old Pasadena Management District in his office. During this meeting, Mulheim stated something to the effect of the following:
“I'm just going to rip off the band aide and say it. It's been brought to my attention during the past year, since your breast augmentation, that your wearing of tank tops has become offensive. There have been eight (8) instances over the past year where board members came up to me and made comments. At yesterday's board meeting, a male board member said that he felt uncomfortable sitting in the room across from you because of your breasts. He didn't know where to look because, 'there was so much of it.' You started wearing tank tops haphazardly but now it's become a staple. Therefore, you cannot wear tank tops any longer. You may wear layered clothing with a tank top underneath but not on its own.”
Fink tells the Weekly that the real issue was simply: “You have to dress professionally. It's an absolute joke.”
Grazioli also claims that she is not being properly compensated for her work and is misclassified as an exempt employee. “If you look at her own words, she is nothing but exempt,” argues Fink. “Go look at what she has online, she does everything for Old Pasadena.”
Another employee, Kershona Mayo, former director of events and marketing who says she was fired on September 24 by the Pasadena non-profit after complaining about her salary, also sued on October 21 – the same day that Grazioli sued. The two women are represented by the same attorney, Blanchard. Mayo claims she was wrongfully terminated, not properly compensated and misclassified as an exempt employee.
“They deserve to be paid correctly,” said Blanchard in a phone interview. “They deserve to be treated with respect.”
Mulheim did not respond to efforts to interview him, and Blanchard said neither Grazioli nor Mayo was speaking to the media.