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Married Los Angeles police officers suing city for discrimination

It's a familiar story. An employee complains to superiors about discrimination, sexual harassment or unethical actions and that employee finds him- or herself the target of retaliation and possibly out of a job. Now two married Los Angeles Police Department officers are alleging that they were harassed and discriminated against and then suffered retaliation when they complained. Both officers are asking for unspecified damages from the city for harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

The woman filed suit against the city last month alleging harassment because of her Wiccan beliefs. The 18-year LAPD veteran says she was harassed by a West Valley Division colleague due to her gender as well as her religion. She says that at one point she found a poster for the movie The Blues Brothers with the characters' catch-phrase, "We're on a Mission from God," placed near her desk.

She claims that when she complained to higher-ups in the force, the problems did not stop. In fact, she says that her colleagues "treated her like an outcast" after she complained and continue to do so.

This month, her husband, also a practicing Wiccan, filed suit against the city as well. The LAPD sergeant, who has been with the force for almost 25 years, says he suffered retaliation by fellow officers, including superiors, after he complained about a holiday event. The December 2012 event for the Devonshire Division was held at a church in Chatsworth. He says it was both a holiday celebration and a training session. According to the suit, the event included religious music and Christian prayer.

According to the plaintiff, when he complained about the event to two superiors, they "verbally berated" him and gave him several negative comment cards. He says they also changed his shift and denied him an opportunity to act as a fill-in watch commander. He, like his wife, says the retaliation has continued. According to the suit, he was denied disability insurance for back surgery late last year.

People who are in the majority may feel empowered to harass others. However, employment laws are there to protect those who are often in the minority in some way -- whether due to race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. When those in positions of authority don't take their employees feelings seriously, those employees have every right to seek justice in the courts.

Source: Highland Park-Mt. Washington Patch, "2nd Wiccan Police Officer Sues LAPD for Harassment" Bill Hetherman, City News Service, Apr. 07, 2014

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