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Former Cuesta College employee sues for retaliation, emotional distress

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A former Cuesta College employee is suing the school and multiple employees, alleging retaliation and emotional distress.

Andrew Kranes, who worked as a general maintenance worker at Cuesta College for five years, wrote complaints to the SLO County District Attorney's Office in November 2021 about fellow employees he alleged were misusing college supplies for personal gain, including using Cuesta gas to fill work vehicles for commuting to Cuesta from home and using parts and tools from the college shop to repair personal vehicles.

RETALIATION After a former Cuesta College general maintenance worker wrote a complaint to the SLO District Attorney's Office about fellow employees using the college's supplies for personal gain, he claims he and his family have experienced retaliation. - FILE PHOTO FROM CUESTA COLLEGE FACEBOOK PAGE
  • File Photo From Cuesta College Facebook Page
  • RETALIATION After a former Cuesta College general maintenance worker wrote a complaint to the SLO District Attorney's Office about fellow employees using the college's supplies for personal gain, he claims he and his family have experienced retaliation.

Kranes believed that he was retaliated against after he filed the complaint. He received a less than satisfactory performance review on March 11, 2022, a few months later. In the lawsuit, Kranes alleges that it was his only review that was less than satisfactory while working at Cuesta.

Cuesta officials told New Times that the college cannot comment because the lawsuit is an agenda item for an upcoming board of trustees closed session meeting.

The lawsuit alleges that on May 11, 2022, Kranes' wife, Harmony, and their two children, ages 3 and 5, had an incident with one of the employees named in the complaint in a parking lot at Cuesta after she met her husband to exchange cars.

One of the defendants alleged that Harmony gave him the middle finger while driving past him in the parking lot, and her husband tried to deescalate the situation by telling him that she recently had surgery and that hand was in a cast.

The defendant acknowledged that Harmony was in the cast, according to the lawsuit.

"However, he reiterated that her husband needed to 'teach that bitch some manners,'" the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that retaliation and discrimination against the Kranes family continued for months as Harmony and their children experienced harassing behavior from the defendants, including inappropriate encounters, following them to their vehicles, gesturing, staring, and taking videos and pictures.

This behavior made Harmony and the children extremely uncomfortable and fearful, according to the lawsuit. The Kraneses' emotional distress reached a new level on July 15, 2022, when Harmony and her children left the Cuesta College pool after their swim lessons. She noticed that the same employee from May 11 had been following her, according to the lawsuit.

"She took a picture, turned to her left and walked away toward the parking lot, panicking. She put her phone on 'selfie' mode and recorded herself walking away. She got to the corner before the parking lot, and she froze," the lawsuit states. "To her right was the women's restroom—where she had been instructed by community programs to change out of wet bathing suits since they don't allow changing on the pool deck. Straight in front of Harmony is the parking lot. Neither place felt safe to her while being followed."

The employee walked into the women's restroom, and then exited it. Harmony asked him why he was following her, and he responded that he was "doing work," the lawsuit states.

Then the Kraneses started experiencing emotional distress, which caused Harmony to suffer from agoraphobia and anxiety-related insomnia and caused her to no longer participate in her son's school because she has panic attacks and severe social anxiety, according to the lawsuit.

"Plaintiff's son wouldn't use the bathroom at school for eight months due to a phobia he has developed of public restrooms," the lawsuit states. "In May 2023, plaintiff's son developed a urinary tract infection believed to be caused from excessively holding his urine and had to miss a week of school and seek medical intervention."

The parties will meet for a case management conference on April 15, 2024. Δ

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