Former employee alleges dentist sexually harassed her for years
November 13, 2017 11:48 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – On the big screen and in network news, men and women are now confronting the powerful. They are the same people who have the power to promote, hire and fire.
Workplace sexual harassment isn’t exclusive to the rich and famous. One New Mexico woman says the only way to keep her job was to compromise her own dignity. 4 Investigates chose to conceal Jane Doe’s identity to protect her privacy.
“I felt disgusted. You know, the first encounter as far as it being a physical thing?’ Doe said. “I threw up. I was like, ‘This is my career.’ What do you do?”
Doe is a single mother of three. She started working for dentist Stephen Cito when she was 18. After giving birth to her second child, she said the dynamic with her boss started to change.
“(He was) making the comments about how my breasts looked,” Doe said. “How my body looked after my pregnancy and the way I look in slacks.”
She didn’t know how to fend off the unwanted comments.
“What do you say? Thanks?” Doe said. “I didn’t know what to say, so I was just like—OK.”
Doe says Cito asked her to have dinner with him to discuss changes at work. That’s when she alleges she better understood what his intentions were.
“That’s just when it started,” Doe said. “He started with putting his hand on me and caressing my breasts and gave me a $100 bill and said, ‘As long as you take care of me, I’ll take care of you.’ After that, I went and I parked and I cried because I was like, ‘What just happened?’”
Money was how the struggling, single mother claimed Cito manipulated her. For three years, she said, he would ask her to come in earlier than her colleagues so she could perform oral sex on him.
“If I didn’t go with the sexual encounters, then there was going to be consequences – losing my job,” Doe said.
Sometimes, she said, her boss would ask for sex in the middle of the workday.
“A lot of times the rule was you need to knock before going in,” Doe said. “So he would be standing right there—blocked—with his back towards the door and then he would have me in the corner.”
Jane Doe filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. After taking testimony from both sides, the commission ruled in her favor saying “sexual harassment” was proven by “a preponderance of evidence” and that there were “tangible employment benefits” for “sexual demands.”
Doe believed she was fired because she eventually refused sex. The commission did not sustain that claim—and said it was equally as likely she was terminated because “Dr. Cito’s wife became aware of the sexual relationship.”
The Human Rights Commission ordered Cito to pay $18,000 for Jane Doe’s lost wages, as well as $10,000 for her attorney’s fees.
4 Investigates requested an interview with Cito and his attorney. Both declined to comment.
Jane Doe’s case against Cito is now in civil court. Court records obtained by 4 Investigates show Cito and his attorney deny all of Doe’s claims. A legal answer filed by Cito and his counsel alleges that he “at no time touched the plaintiff in a rude, insulant or angry matter,” and that Doe “failed to state sufficient facts.”
Attorney Whitney Warner is representing Doe. She has represented similar victims.
“They generally have money,” Warner said. “They have status. They have position. They usually have real influence and total control over that person’s job and even sometimes their career outside of that particular place of employment.”
Warner said control is solidified by silence.
“The perpetrator uses that shame and embarrassment to keep them quiet and it’s that silence that really enables the perpetrators to do what they do,” Warner said.
With a new job and a fresh start, Doe wants other alleged victims to know that they’re not alone.
“No woman or man should have to be in that position,” Doe said. “There is help.”
Updated: November 13, 2017 11:48 AM
Created: November 12, 2017 06:50 PM
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