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Appeals court overturns L.A. Fire Department bias case

February 18, 2010 |  7:50 pm
A state appellate court Thursday overturned a high-profile Los Angeles Fire Department harassment and discrimination case in which a black lesbian firefighter was awarded $6.2 million after she was allegedly forced out.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal concluded that firefighter Brenda Lee failed to exhaust her administrative remedies regarding a claim that she was not permitted to return to work. The case was remanded to Los Angeles Superior Court.

In issuing its ruling, the court agreed with city attorneys who had argued that Lee did not use all the administrative remedies available to her.

Lee's 2007 jury award was one of several harassment and discrimination cases that roiled the Fire Department and cost city tax payers millions of dollars to settle.

In 2007, an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the department violated civil rights laws by subjecting African American and female firefighters to a "pattern and practice" of discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

Allegations of harassment, retaliation and discrimination helped prompt the 2007 retirement of former Fire Chief William Bamattre.

-- Robert J. Lopez