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Westminster police officers accuse department of discrimination

Even in a highly diverse area like Southern California, discrimination against employees based on their heritage can occur. That's what three Westminster police officers are alleging in a federal discrimination suit against the City of Westminster in Orange County. The City of Westminster was denying the charges as jury selection began in the case.

The three men, who have all been with the Westminster Police Department for at least 10 years, say that because they are Latino, they were not given assignments that would have helped them be promoted to a higher rank. An attorney representing them says that their non-Latino colleagues "get detective assignments in their second year."

The officers say that they were regularly given "dead end" duties, as the attorney described them, like patrolling the Westminster Mall. Two of the men contend that their applications for special assignments were denied, despite having been recognized on multiple occasions for their work. One officer, a former Marine, was reportedly the recipient of merit medals from the department and was "Rookie of the Year." Another reportedly received commendations from groups including Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Moreover, according to CBS Los Angeles, all three men are alleging that they were victims of retaliation by their superiors. This reportedly included investigations by Internal Affairs, poor job reviews, reprimands and even suspensions. The plaintiffs' attorney who spoke to the media about the case said, "The pattern of promotion" in the department appeared retaliatory and "looks to be an attempt to cover up their illegal acts."

Taking on an employer over discrimination practices is never easy. Facing the resources that a city government can bring to bear to defend itself and its various entities can be even more daunting. In cases like this one, where multiple people have faced the same type of discrimination for the same reason, it may be wise to file an action together. These group actions, even when it involves just a few people, can help show a pattern by the employer and present a stronger case than an individual acting alone can present. Employment attorneys can advise people on the best course of action for their particular circumstances.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, "Latino officers claim in suit they were passed over, given mall duty" Adolfo Flores, Feb. 17, 2014

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