Woman files sexual harassment lawsuit against Utah Highway Patrol sergeant

SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah woman has filed a civil rights lawsuit against a Utah Highway Patrol Sergeant claiming sexual harassment.

West Coast Towing is one of three companies Utah Highway Patrol rotates through when big rigs or vehicles need to be towed in Utah County. Their liaison, Heather Leyva, says the sergeant overseeing the program sexually harassed her.

In the lawsuit, Leyva claims the defendant used his position as the operation overseer of the “Heavy Duty Rotation” contract for the Utah Highway Patrol to commit various acts of sexual harassment.

She seeks relief for the defendant’s violation of her rights guaranteed by the U.S. constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment.

Her attorney, Robert B. Sykes, held a press conference on Wednesday.

“She was in a vulnerable position," he said.

Sykes says Leyva kept in touch with the sergeant to ensure their company would be included in the rotation.

“This started a pattern of frequent harassment, suggestive comments," Sykes said.

Sykes says business calls turned into flirtatious texts. He provided a few examples:

Text message exchange 1:

Sergeant: "NEED A DRINK OR SOMETHING?"

Leyva: "I just drank coconut water."

Sergeant: "AWE DANG I WAS HOPING. I REALLY DIDN’T WANT A DRINK YA KNOW."

Leyva: "Well that’s what you said."

Sergeant: "THAT WAS CODE FOR JUST WANTING TO SEE YOU AND TALK A BIT."

Text message exchange 2:

Sergeant: "I COULD THINK OF MANY DIFFERENT WAYS AND POSITIONS. UNFORTUNATELY, WE CAN’T TONIGHT. I’M DONE HERE AT 10 THEN IT’S OFF TO BED. I HAVE PT TEST IN THE MORNING AT 7 GRRRRR."

Leyva: "Lol. Ok maybe tomorrow. Good luck with the testing!"

Sergeant: "I GUESS YOU COULD ALWAYS SEND ME A YOU BEST SEXIEST PICTURE. THAT MIGHT HELP.
YA KNOW…. ONLY IF I WANTED."

Leyva complained to her boss and when he confronted the Sergeants superior, he said he was threatened.

When West Coast Towing sued UHP and UDOT for breach of contract in July of 2017. They say the sergeant was removed from that position and work started to pick up.

Sykes claims the findings of an internal investigation prove his client’s claims but they are sealed to the public.

“That has to stop: not only the sexual abuse but the ones that protect it," he said. "The ones who suborn it, the ones who facilitate it are just as guilty.”

The Department of Public Safety released this statement:

"The Department of Public Safety has been made aware of a possible lawsuit claiming Heather Leyva was sexually harassed by a member of the Utah Highway Patrol. The Department takes all allegations of harassment very seriously. Due to potential litigation, our Department has no further comment regarding this matter."

-Marissa Cote, spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Public Safety."