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'This did a lot of damage' | Maintenance worker set to sue City of San Antonio over alleged assault, sexual harassment

Maria Villegas accuses managers at the Henry B. González Convention Center of creating a toxic work environment for female employees.

SAN ANTONIO — A maintenance worker is preparing to sue the City of San Antonio over allegations of sexual harassment and assault by her supervisors.

Maria Villegas was joined by her attorney, Lynn Ellenberger, as she spoke with KENS 5.

“The bullying, the assault, the sexual harassment … it’s too much,” Villegas said.

Villegas is a maintenance worker for the City of San Antonio. She says the problems began after she was transferred to the Henry B. González Convention Center in March 2021.

“The supervisors would talk down to me,” she said. “I felt it was mostly women. They would say, ‘Go do this,’ and, ‘Hurry! Hurry!’ I felt uncomfortable, but I tolerated it because I needed the work. The job was my bread and butter.”

On August 13, 2021, Villegas says she was walking down a hallway with two supervisors when a third came out of his office.

“We walked by his office, and he came out,” Villegas said. “He said, ‘Where are you all going?’ The supervisors next to me said, ‘Oh, we are going to do that task you told us to do.’ I turn around. Me and the other supervisor are walking forward when he comes up behind me and he pulls my hair. I just see the ceiling and I hear like a click on my neck. I keep walking, but he brought me back to another world.”

Villegas says she is a domestic violence survivor.

After the incident, Villegas says she went up the chain of command and reported the supervisor who yanked her hair. She says the incident was caught on surveillance camera, but she claims her complaints were not taken seriously, so she went to the police.

Court documents show the supervisor was charged with Assault - Bodily Injury. A judge granted Villegas a no-contact order, and the case is set to go to trial on March 28. However, Villegas says the supervisor is still employed at the convention center.

Just two months later, she says there was another incident with a different supervisor.

“He said, ‘You have to go to the office,’” Villegas said. “As soon as I went in, he turned around and pushed me to the table. He groped me, kissed me and had his hands all over me."

She showed us the Facebook messages that supervisor reportedly sent her after the incident, saying he "was aroused" and making references to wanting to have sexual relations with her.

“My stomach hurts when I go to work because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Villegas said. "This did a lot of damage. This was bad."

Villegas says she she now suffers from depression. 

A few months ago, Ellenberger filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission on Villegas’ behalf. Ellenberger also represents a former maintenance worker who detailed similar treatment.

“My clients are very courageous and brave stepping forward,” said Ellenberger, with FeganScott LLC. “The City of San Antonio is a big employer. These women have to go to work every day and they have to face this constant barrage of insults, harassment, touching and very menacing conduct. The city knows about this. These women are not the first to come forward, and [the city] has not conducted any sort of investigation. As you heard from Maria, they have not made these harassers give up their employment. The city needs to make this a safe workplace for the women who work at the convention center.”

Ellenberger recently received a "right-to-sue" letter from the Texas Workforce Commission. She plans to file a lawsuit within the next 45 days.

KENS 5 reached out to the City of San Antonio repeatedly for comment. A spokesperson said under federal law, the city cannot comment on possible charges by the workforce commission until a lawsuit is filed and the information becomes public.

However, the City Attorney’s Office did provide the following statement:

“The City of San Antonio works to provide a safe, discrimination and harassment-free work environment for all city employees. We investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct and, based on the findings, take appropriate action.”

Ellenberger is encouraging other city maintenance workers who have experienced harassment to come forward.

“My message for people who are looking at this story is, 'Don’t give up,'” Villegas said. “Justice will prevail.”

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