L.A. Will Pay a White Parks Worker Nearly $3.8 Million in a Racial Bias Lawsuit

Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2016

Five years after a white city parks worker accused a former supervisor of disparaging his skin color, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a multimillion-dollar payout to satisfy a court judgment in the racial discrimination lawsuit.

The council voted unanimously Wednesday to pay former gardener James Duffy nearly $3.8 million plus accrued interest in a court judgment that found Duffy suffered years of harassment and retaliation while working for the Department of Recreation and Parks.

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Duffy filed a lawsuit against the city in 2011 alleging discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on his race and disability. A jury found in favor of Duffy in 2014. After the city appealed, a state appeals court affirmed the verdict.

According to a 2011 court complaint, race became an issue when Abel Perez became Duffy’s foreman in 2002 or 2004. In one incident, according to the complaint, Perez told Duffy, “I hate white people.”

There was an assortment of other mistreatment, according to the complaint: Perez gave Duffy bad assignments and would not assign anyone to help him, while Latino gardeners usually got two assistants. Perez promoted Latino employees but did not promote Duffy, the complaint said.

Duffy said that he was harassed after suffering an injury in an on-the-job accident when he slipped on wet concrete and “split his head open.”

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The complaint describes incidents in which Duffy’s supervisors tried to disorient him after the injury. For example, Duffy said he was told by supervisors that he had not been given assignments when he had and that he had failed to complete assignments that he had never received.

Duffy said he protested his treatment but no action was taken. In March 2010, Duffy retired.

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Perez could not be reached for comment. He is still employed as a senior park maintenance supervisor, said Rose Watson, a Recreation and Parks department spokeswoman. {snip}

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