The California Court of Appeal overturned a $2 million dollar award to a Los Angeles police officer who it was admitted was fired solely because he complained of sexual harassment. Sounds like a good case? Too good for this court panel, which turned logic on its head in finding that it was legal to fire Officer Joaquin in retaliation for his filing a sexual harassment complaint. The Court found that, even though the jury found the plaintiff to be fired because he filed this complaint, that it wasn’t illegal because an internal panel (known as the Board of “Rights”) found that his complaint was false.
In this case, Officer Joaquin filed an internal charge of sexual harassment. His statement as to what happened certainly contains evidence that would permit any jury to find that he was sexually harassed. He recited how a Sergeant sexually harassed him, asked him on a date, and after Officer Joaquin told him he was not interested, continued to pursue him by, inter alia, following him around and making inappropriate comments, such as “you look nice standing there.” Joaquin v City of Los Angles (Jan. 23, 2012) 202 Cal.App.4th 1207.
As stated above, Joaquin filed an internal complaint of sexual harassment. The Sergeant filed an internal complaint against Joaquin, and it took off from there with an Internal Affairs investigation, and a finding by a panel somewhat inappropriately labeled the “Board of Rights” (which consisted of two management level officer, who very well may have been biased and certainly weren’t outside neutrals, and one community member). The Board of Rights determined that Joaquin had fabricated his claims. Joaquin disagreed with the Board’s finding and filed a writ of mandate. The Superior Court, which heard the writ, agreed with Joaquin and ordered him reinstated. After that, Joaquin filed this action in court alleging retaliation. The jury not only found in his favor, but really found in his favor, awarding him $2 million.