Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Darcy French, a veteran of the department, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her employer alleging that her supervisors ignored her complaints about the harassment. According to a Los Angeles Times news report, French says in her lawsuit that supervisors not only ignored her complaints for months, but took action to discredit and retaliate against her for reporting the abuse.
Allegations of Harassment and Retaliation
In the lawsuit filed last month in Los Angeles County Superior Court, French alleged that she was passed up for a promotion to lieutenant on three occasions between February and July 2022. She was also forced to administratively transfer out of her division, was twice threatened with suspension and was even marked for demotion from the rank of sergeant to police officer, French's lawsuit states. She alleged that the department's leadership contributed to a hostile work environment by failing to stop the offensive social media posts against her or to hold the offending employees responsible.
The hyper-sexualized online posts about her began sometime in July 2020 after French said she became aware of a sexist meme being shared by some officers on her shift, which mocked a gang unit cop who had stopped another officer from using a baton on a suspect. The meme, the lawsuit says, compared the unidentified gang officer's actions to a tampon "to signify weakness by appealing to negative gender stereotypes."
Whistleblower Claim Filed
After this, French said she continued to raise the issue to derogatory memes with supervisors, as she herself became the target of increasingly vulgar memes. One post made a reference to gang rape referencing French's position at the LAPD's Metropolitan Division, the lawsuit states, adding that the offensive social media posts about her were widely viewed, shared and discussed department wide. "Plaintiff was humiliated offended, and threatened by this harassing conduct targeting her and other female department employees," according to the lawsuit.
After the retaliatory action against her, French filed a whistleblower claim against the city in August. This is not the first time the LAPD has been accused of fostering a crude, sexist culture within its ranks. One of the biggest recent scandals to rock the department involved LAPD Capt. Lillian Carranza who sued after other officers began circulating a photo of a nude woman falsely claiming it was her image. A jury awarded her $4 million in damages last year.
Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment
You may have a sexual harassment claim against your employer:
- You are the target of unwelcome advances, conduct or comments. This could include online harassment.
- The harassment is based on your sex or gender.
- The harassment is severe or pervasive enough to affect your work conditions.
Harassment claims based on hostile working conditions must be severe and pervasive. This means that the harassing conduct needs to be more than just something that occurs occasionally or is something trivial. In order to determine whether a work environment is hostile, courts and juries typically examine all evidence that is available and whether a reasonable person would feel harassed in such a situation.
Who Can Commit Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
There is a misconception that only supervisors or higher-ups in an organization can exhibit harassing behavior. This is not true. Sexually harassing behavior in the workplace can come from a number of different people including company owners, supervisors, co-workers or colleagues, clients, customers and independent contractors or vendors. An experienced Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer can help you better understand your legal rights and options in such cases.
Retaliation is Against the Law
California employees are protected not only from sexual harassment in the workplace, but also from retaliation, which occurs when an employer punishes an employee for filing complaints regarding discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Retaliation can come in many forms including being passed up for promotion, demotion, salary reduction, denial of a raise, missed training opportunities, job reassignment, poor performance review, exclusion from staff activities and job termination.
While some forms are retaliation may be explicit, others can be subtler. Retaliation in such circumstances is illegal -- regardless of whether the claim was true – if the employee made the claim in good faith.
What Can You Do About Retaliation?
If you believe that your employer, supervisor or another party is retaliating against you in the workplace, it is important that you seek the counsel of an experienced Los Angeles employment lawyer who can help investigate your claim and help you learn if you have been retaliated against. Make sure you document each time your employer takes a retaliatory action. Keep copies of reports or emails that can help your case. Store this information in a home computer or in a place where it is accessible to you. The more information you document, the stronger your case can become.
At Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers, our experienced Los Angeles employment lawyers help fight for employees' rights. We will work diligently to prove your workplace harassment and retaliation case, and help you secure fair and full compensation for your losses. Call us to schedule your no-cost consultation and case evaluation.
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