The widow of a former employee of the University of California at Davis has sued the institution, alleging that its investigation of sexual-harassment claims stemming from an alcohol-soaked retreat led to her husband’s death, The Sacramento Bee reports.
The newspaper provided a detailed account of a rowdy university trip that Col. Christopher De Los Santos, administrator of a department supporting the university’s agriculture college and an officer in the Air Force, took with 16 other staff members in October 2015. Two employees on that trip filed complaints about his actions.
On the two-day retreat, the staff members toured a lettuce-growing operation in Salinas, Calif., about three hours from the Davis campus. One employee likened the trip to a “booze cruise,” with attendees drinking at dinner, in the hotel afterward, and even on the initial car ride to Salinas. Later, employees alleged, Colonel De Los Santos stripped naked after drinking, suggesting to female employees that “maybe we should take a bath,” according to university documents cited by the Bee.
Shortly after the trip, the university notified Colonel De Los Santos by email that it was placing him on leave, pending the outcome of its investigation into the sexual-harassment complaints. He committed suicide shortly after.
His widow, Lisa De Los Santos, alleges in a lawsuit that the university handled her husband’s sexual-harassment case differently than others because of his military background.
The lawsuit says that some administrators “told the dean that they did not want Col. De Los Santos to come in to work because he ‘might show up with a gun’ and/or ‘need to be escorted off campus by security’ due to his military background.” Other individuals under investigation for similar accusations in the past had been allowed to come to work, the lawsuit alleges.
The university countered that claim in a written statement. “The university’s actions were entirely appropriate under the circumstances, and this lawsuit is an unfortunate development in an already tragic situation,” the statement says.