Redlands City Council candidate Mike Saifie accused of sexual harassment – San Bernardino Sun

A Redlands City Council candidate is facing charges that he sexually harassed an employee.

Mike Saifie is running for the District 3 Redlands City Council seat in the Nov. 8, 2022 election. (Courtesy of Mike Saifie)

Mahmood “Mike” Saifie, who’s running in the Nov. 8 election for the District 3 seat on the council, owns a number of restaurant franchises, including Del Taco and Hooters restaurants. On Aug. 20 2020, he was sued by two of his Hooters employees in Riverside Superior Court.

In the lawsuit, which remained active as of Wednesday, Nov. 2, plaintiffs Arlene Garcia and Brandi Smith, who both worked as waitresses at Saifie’s Moreno Valley Hooters, are suing the Hooters corporation and Saifie, alleging that he wrongfully terminated one and sexually harassed the other.

According to the suit, Saifie “is a sexual predator who preys on the vulnerabilities of young female employees,” who regularly intimidates, bullies and harasses his staff, and walks in on them while they’re changing. In the suit, both Garcia and Smith allege unwanted touching by Saifie and suggestive comments and say they repeatedly complained about his behavior and asked him to stop.

“After each complaint Saifie either threatened Plaintiffs’ job security or berated them in front of others,” the lawsuit reads in part. “This behavior caused Plaintiffs severe emotional and physical distress. They had a choice of either giving in to sexual advances and accepting his behavior or lose their jobs.”

In addition, Garcia slipped and fell at work, according to the lawsuit, and Saifie allegedly wouldn’t accommodate her ability to lift more than 10 pounds and said she was faking her injury.

Smith, meanwhile, alleged that Saifie repeatedly touched her without consent, including touching her buttocks, back and shoulders and would attempt to kiss her and touch her breasts.

Both women eventually quit and the lawsuit contends that “any reasonable woman” in their position would have done the same.

Saifie disputes all the charges.

“The bigger the businessman you become, the bigger the target you carry on your back for frivolous lawsuits,” he said. “We are filing a motion for summary judgement, asking the judge to throw out the case as a frivolous lawsuit.”

In Garcia’s specific case, Saifie said his company “did everything in our power” to accommodate her medical needs.

“I personally reassigned her job duties. Later, she felt like she was demoted by becoming a hostess,” he said.

Saifie owns other Hooters restaurants around the state.

“None of them have ever had these claims, except these two frivolous ones,” he said. “Out of my 500 current employees, I’ve never had these sorts of allegations.”

And voters can ask his employees for themselves, he said, as they will be among the people knocking on doors in Redlands this weekend, in the lead-up to the Nov. 8 election.

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