Lesbian LAPD officers settle harassment suit for $1.25 million
The Los Angeles City Council approved a $1.25-million payout Wednesday to a lesbian LAPD officer and a lesbian retired officer to settle claims by the women that they were subjected to repeated sexual harassment by a supervisor.
The agreement marks the latest in a long string of six- and seven-figure settlements and jury awards the city has had to pay in cases of discrimination, retaliation and other workplace strife that LAPD officers bring against one another with some frequency.
In a 11-1 vote, the council signed off on the payout to avoid a trial in a lawsuit filed in 2011 by now-retired Officer Linda Gotham and Officer Lynn Whitey.
The two women, both openly gay, were assigned to the department's Van Nuys Division in 2010, where they were supervised by Sgt. Randy Hoffmaster, a 25-year veteran of the force.
On several occasions over the course of the year, the women charged in court documents, Hoffmaster made vulgar sexual comments and propositions to them. Their repeated complaints about Hoffmaster to more senior officials led to nothing, the women said in the lawsuit.
Matthew McNicholas, the women's attorney, said Gotham had had to deal with uncomfortable, inappropriate comments and situations as a closeted sailor in the Navy.
"This woman does not have thin skin, and so it means something that she finally said, 'Enough, is enough, is enough,' " McNicholas said.
After the officers filed their lawsuit, department officials opened an internal investigation into their claims against Hoffmaster, McNicholas said. The findings have not been made public, but according to McNicholas, Hoffmaster resigned at the conclusion of the inquiry.
Hoffmaster could not be reached for comment. Lt. Andy Neiman, a spokesman for the department, confirmed that Hoffmaster no longer works for the LAPD, but declined to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit.
Along with the findings of the LAPD's investigation, the women's claims were supported by other officers who witnessed the abuse and who were prepared to testify against Hoffmaster at a trial, McNicholas said.
The apparent failure of department officials to address the women's complaints until after a lawsuit was filed underscores an ongoing struggle within the LAPD. For the past year, top police officials and the civilian board that oversees the force have come under increasing pressure to improve the department's ability to quickly and effectively resolve workplace conflicts before they result in costly litigation.
-- Joel Rubin