LASD fe­male lieu­tenant al­leges dis­parate treat­ment of women

Antelope Valley Press - - OPINION - By BILL HETHERMAN

LOS AN­GE­LES — A sher­iff’s lieu­tenant is su­ing Los An­ge­les County, al­leg­ing she has been de­nied pro­mo­tions and trans­ferred to an in­fe­rior po­si­tion as part of a cam­paign against her di­rected from the top.

“Los An­ge­les County Sher­iff Alex Vil­lanueva cam­paigned for of­fice on a prom­ise to end crony­ism and re­store a merit-based pro­mo­tion sys­tem to the ... Sher­iff ’s De­part­ment,’’ plain­tiff’ Jen­nifer See­too’s law­suit states. “In the year since he was elected, Vil­lanueva has re­peat­edly pro­moted his male friends, ap­plied more fa­vor­able stan­dards to male em­ploy­ees than fe­males gen­er­ally and made dis­parag­ing com­ments about women within the LASD and to the me­dia.”

An LASD rep­re­sen­ta­tive did not im­me­di­ately re­ply to a re­quest for com­ment on See­too’s law­suit, which was filed Mon­day in Los An­ge­les Su­pe­rior Court. She is seek­ing un­spec­i­fied dam­ages on al­le­ga­tions of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion, ha­rass­ment and re­tal­i­a­tion.

The plain­tiff ’s law­suit al­leges Vil­lanueva has “di­rected a vi­cious and cyn­i­cal at­tack on one of the LASD’s finest fe­male lieu­tenants, block­ing her from the op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote to cap­tain, di­rect­ing his ex­ec­u­tives to de­mote her twice, be­lit­tling her, plant­ing spies to watch her work, crit­i­ciz­ing her suc­cess and trans­fer­ring her out of the ju­ris­dic­tion where she served ad­mirably and pro­vided rare ex­pe­ri­ence in re­spond­ing to fires dur­ing the most crit­i­cal part of fire sea­son.”

See­too be­gan work­ing for the LASD as a cus­tody as­sis­tant in 1997 and rose through the ranks. She spent a year in Iraq from May 2004 to May 2005, op­er­at­ing con­voys and manag­ing se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions for mem­bers of the U.S. De­part­ment of State, on an ap­proved leave of ab­sence from LASD, ac­cord­ing to her suit.

In Novem­ber 2018, See­too was trans­ferred to a po­si­tion as op­er­a­tions lieu­tenant at the Lost Hills/ Mal­ibu sher­iff ’s sta­tion and was made act­ing cap­tain the same month af­ter the reg­u­lar cap­tain went on a med­i­cal leave, her suit states. She was widely rec­og­nized for her role with oth­ers at the sta­tion in help­ing fa­cil­i­tate quick evac­u­a­tions of res­i­dents dur­ing the Woolsey Fire, ac­cord­ing to her court pa­pers.

In Jan­uary 2019, the sta­tion com­mand staff falsely ac­cused her of play­ing pol­i­tics and jock­ey­ing for the job of the cap­tain on med­i­cal leave, the suit states. She also was wrongly ac­cused of hav­ing a re­la­tion­ship with a lo­cal city man­ager and now be­lieves the in­for­ma­tion came from Vil­lanueva, his chief of staff and an aide to the sher­iff, ac­cord­ing to her court pa­pers.

“Fol­low­ing her re­moval as act­ing cap­tain and op­er­a­tions lieu­tenant, See­too served suc­cess­fully as watch com­man­der and Mal­ibu li­ai­son lieu­tenant at (Mal­ibu/Lost Hills),” and also con­tin­ued to act as in­ci­dent com­man­der for the flood­ing, mud­slides and de­bris flows in the large burn area created by the Woolsey Fire, the suit states.

How­ever, See­too was even­tu­ally trans­ferred to the West Hol­ly­wood sta­tion and was told by a su­per­vi­sor that the move was done “to fur­ther her ca­reer” but also be­cause she had been “dis­rup­tive,” ac­cord­ing to her com­plaint.

On See­too’s first day work­ing as watch com­man­der in the West Hol­ly­wood sta­tion, a sergeant showed her around the sta­tion, but no one pro­vided her an ori­en­ta­tion, the suit states.

“She sat at a desk for 12 hours and did al­most noth­ing,” the suit says.

Mean­while, See­too be­lieved that Vil­lanueva told a re­porter “sev­eral false and defam­a­tory things” about her last Oc­to­ber, in­clud­ing re­peat­ing the state­ment that she had an in­ap­pro­pri­ate re­la­tion­ship with a city man­ager, the suit states.

See­too be­lieves there are other fe­male deputies who have been mis­treated and de­nied pro­mo­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­vided to males, ac­cord­ing to her law­suit, which cites sev­eral ex­am­ples of the al­leged pref­er­en­tial treat­ment for men.

“Un­der Sher­iff Vil­lanueva’s lead­er­ship, the LASD has re­peat­edly shown male sworn (deputies) more fa­vor­able treat­ment than that given to See­too,” the suit al­leges.

Five days be­fore fil­ing her law­suit, See­too lodged al­le­ga­tions of dis­crim­i­na­tion, ha­rass­ment, re­tal­i­a­tion and fail­ure to pre­vent dis­crim­i­na­tion and ha­rass­ment against Los An­ge­les County and the LASD with the state De­part­ment of Fair Em­ploy­ment and Hous­ing.

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