Woman sues Long Beach foodbank CEO, alleging she was pressured into sex

A lawsuit filed by a former part-time employee of a Long Beach-based foodbank alleges its CEO sexually harassed her on the job and that she was forced to quit in 2018.

The plaintiff is identified only as Jane Roe in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed Friday against the Foodbank of Southern California and CEO John F. Knapp, seeking unspecified damages. The suit’s other allegations include sexual battery, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and retaliation.

A phone message left for Knapp was not immediately returned.

The suit alleges that the woman was hired by the agency part-time in March 2017 and Knapp shortly thereafter showed an interest in her, eventually promoting her to a full-time post during what the complaint describes as a “first date” between the plaintiff and the CEO.

On a subsequent “date,” according to the suit, Knapp took the woman to a motel and allegedly insisted they have sex.

Although the woman initially resisted, Knapp asked her, “Don’t you know who I am?” and told her “Stop saying no to me,” according to her court papers.

“Fearing that she would be fired or even physically hurt if she did not allow Knapp to have sex with her, she ultimately gave up fighting him off of her,” the suit alleges. “In the following days, Ms. Roe somehow managed to continue with her life, in utter disbelief of what had just happened to her.”

When Roe reported Knapp’s alleged misconduct to another Foodbank executive, the latter told her that she did not think that Knapp was pursuing the plaintiff because he “usually goes for girls in their 20s,” the suit states. The second executive also told Roe she believed Knapp was involved in sexual relationships with two other employees, according to the suit.

Roe went on stress leave for 30 days and, when she returned, was retaliated against by being demoted back to part-time work soliciting donations without being given the proper tools to do her job, the suit alleges. She resigned in October 2018 because of the work conditions, the suit states.

She maintains that she was told an internal investigation into her complaints ended with the finding that sexual contact between her and Knapp was “mutually consensual and not unwelcomed by either party.”

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