News (USA)

LA city council approves $1.25 million settlement in lesbian discrimination case

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles City Council approved a $1.25 million settlement Wednesday to a current and former officer who accused the Police Department of discriminating against them and harassing them because they are lesbians.

The City Council voted 12-1 to approve the settlement, with Councilman Mitch Englander the lone no vote, said Frank Mateljian, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office.

In 2011, police Officers Linda Gotham and Lynn Whitey filed suit alleging they had been subject to repeated lewd comments and gestures referencing their sexual orientation.

Attorney Matt McNicholas, who represents the women, said the behavior continued for years and had been ignored until the lawsuit was filed. The case had been scheduled to go to trial March 29.

“I’m happy with it, the plaintiffs are happy with it, and I think it’s fair to all sides,” McNicholas said. “It prevented a completely unnecessary trial.”

According to the complaint, in 2010 Whitey and Gotham were both working at Van Nuys Division and were subject to “vulgar, lewd, and harassing comments and gestures on a daily basis” by then-Sgt. Randy Hoffmaster.

Comments included referring to the women as “my two angry lesbians,” calling them “crack whores,” and making derogatory comments about each of their domestic partners.

The complaint states the women repeatedly informed their superiors about the behavior including to those in internal affairs, but no action was taken and the behavior got worse.

“The department has many policies on the books to address this,” McNicholas said. “It’s just a matter of enforcing them.”

A department spokesman declined to comment on the settlement. Englander, who voted against it, said he couldn’t provide details why because it was decided in closed session.

“I just didn’t believe we should be settling,” Englander said. “We can’t talk until it’s a signed deal.”

Hoffmaster retired from the department after the complaint was filed and an internal investigation was completed, McNicholas said.

Gotham retired after 24 years with the department last year and Whitey remains with the department, McNicholas said.

“When she first contacted me and told me what was happening, I didn’t believe her,” said McNicholas, who often represents law enforcement officers.

“She said to me, very formally, very respectful, she said ‘Sir, I served in the Navy before ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ so I don’t have a thin skin. I’ve dealt with this with no problem throughout my life, this was just too much.'”

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