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California Court Overturns Female Firefighter's Racial, Gender Discrimination Case

February 18, 2010

As California Employment Lawyers, we have been following the recent news of a California appellate court reversal of the $6.2 million verdict against the city of Los Angeles--from the lawsuit filed by black lesbian firefighter Brenda Lee, who claimed discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination in the workplace.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the 2nd District Court of Appeal made its decision today in Lee's case, where she sued the city of Los Angeles for alleged fire department discrimination. The lawsuit accused the fire department of discrimination based on gender, race, and sexual orientation and for failing to transfer her after she filed a harassment complaint.

Lee claimed in the lawsuit that her superiors put her through difficult fire department drills that neglected proper health and safety requirements, and subjected her to derogatory and inappropriate comments and actions.

The 2007 jury decision was reportedly the largest in a line of case settlements involving discrimination and retaliation against minorities and women within the fire department in Los Angeles. The cases have allegedly cost Los Angeles taxpayers more than $15 million since 2005.

In a 2007 letter to the fire department, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded that there had been a pattern of harassment, discrimination and retaliation against female and black firefighters, where federal civil rights laws had been violated.

Today, the appeals court found that Brenda Lee failed to follow all administrative remedies after she was terminated from her job in 2005. Lee claimed that she was placed on unpaid leave in May of 2005 for being psychologically unfit to fight fires. The court also found that some of the evidence did not support the conclusion that Lee's termination was based on discrimination.

After allegations of sexual and racial discrimination surfaced in the Los Angeles fire department, former Fire Chief William Bamattre reportedly retired early, in 2007.

Calif. Court Reverses $6.2M Firefighter Judgment, The Washington Post, February 18, 2010

Appeals Court Overturns L.A. Fire Department Bias Case, Los Angeles Times, February 18, 2010

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC)