Ex-Playmate, Aide to Calif. Politician Gets $150K After Firing

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By David McAfee

A former Playboy Playmate who served as an aide to a Southern California politician will receive $150,000 to drop her wrongful termination lawsuit, according to a settlement agreement approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors Sept. 26.

Christine Richters, who was the Playmate of the Month in May 1986 and worked for Orange County from 2013 to 2016, filed the lawsuit March 24 in California Superior Court, saying she endured an “extremely stressful” work environment because of “unrealistic demands” by County Supervisor Todd Spitzer. She alleged disability discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

The county decided to settle Richters’ claims “due to a technical issue surrounding overtime issues and at-will employment,” according to a Sept. 26 statement from Spitzer’s office. The deal is “a business decision,” Melanie Eustice, Spitzer’s chief of staff, said in the statement.

“This settlement was a business decision to settle and to protect the County from additional suits,” Eustice wrote. “Since the claim, I have implemented clear and uniform employment policies developed under the guidance of County Counsel and Human Resources to protect the County from similar claims in the future from employees who are not direct reports.”

The settlement agreement was reached Sept. 5.

County Sued

“The environment in Spitzer’s office was extremely stressful due to the unrealistic demands Spitzer placed upon the employees, as well as Spitzer’s raging temper that he often directed towards the employees,” attorneys for Richters wrote in the complaint ( Richters v. County of Orange , Cal. Super. Ct., No. 30-2017-00910955, 3/24/17 ).

“Simply put, even though plaintiff was not directly supervised by Spitzer, it was Spitzer’s regular practice to govern his office through means of fear and aggression,” the complaint said.

The county supervisor’s temper caused Richters to suffer “severe health issues,” including hair loss, weight loss, and depression, according to the complaint. She tried to transfer but was told she was “on her own” and that “no one leaves Spitzer unless they’re fired,” the lawsuit said.

Richters sued the county and Spitzer for harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. The county also failed to pay overtime and minimum wages due when she worked as an executive aide to Spitzer, she said. She was required to be available daily at all hours, sometimes working 24-hour shifts, without being compensated for each hour of work, she claimed.

Claims ‘Misleading,’ Spitzer Says

On March 28, four days after Richters’ lawsuit was filed, Spitzer issued a statement on her “false and misleading allegations.” He was “aware and supportive” of her goal to find another job, regardless of her claims to the contrary, the statement said.

“Unfortunately, and despite our best efforts to assist Ms. Richters, she was unable to secure a permanent civil service position with the County,” Spitzer wrote.

Richters also filed her lawsuit “simply to gouge the taxpayers for her unwillingness to adapt and gain even the most fundamental computer skills that would have resulted in either remaining with Supervisor Spitzer or testing favorably” for another county job, he wrote.

Settlement Reached

Despite the contradicting claims, a settlement was reached Sept. 5.

Under the terms of the deal, the county will pay Richters $150,000 by Oct. 17 and she will drop all claims against the defendants arising from her employment and termination. The agreement was conditional upon approval of the board.

The supervisors finally approved that deal in a closed session Sept. 26, the county’s public information manager told Bloomberg BNA.

Representatives for Richters didn’t immediately return Bloomberg BNA’s requests for comment Sept. 27.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McAfee in Los Angeles at dMcAfee@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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