Sergeant awarded judgement for sexual harassment at sheriff’s Norwalk Station

From City News Service:
LOS ANGELES – A female sheriff’s sergeant was awarded $211,700 Wednesday by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury, which determined that she endured about three years of sexual harassment by her one-time mentor at the Norwalk station.
Jurors deliberated for about four hours before finding in favor of Sgt. Tera White and against the county and Lt. Patrick Valdez.
“I think my client will be pleased,” plaintiff’s counsel Timothy B. Sottile said, though the panel rejected White’s claims that she was a victim of retaliation.
White’s lawyers argued the harassment against their client ranged from asking her out on dates to uninvited physical contact, including two forced kisses, while defense attorneys said criminal and internal investigations conducted into White’s complaints exonerated Valdez.
White filed her lawsuit in October 2008. According to her court papers, the 53-year-old began her law enforcement career with the Pasadena Police Department in 1987 as a civilian employee. She later graduated from the Sheriff’s Academy and worked at various stations, including Altadena and San Dimas before moving to Norwalk as a patrol sergeant in 2005.
Valdez was in charge of White’s orientation and began tormenting her, according to her lawyers, who said she initially tried handling the problem without telling her superiors.
When she eventually complained, she was transferred to the Sheriff’s Department’s Star Center in Whittier and given a position tantamount to a receptionist and normally held by interns in the training unit, her lawyers said.
White is currently in another inferior position in which she proofreads documents and cannot earn overtime, her lawyers said.
Defense attorney Catherine M. Mathers told jurors that Valdez, a married father of triplets, tried to help White when she first came to the Norwalk station. She was friendly at first, but later grew more “cold and distant,” Mathers said.
Although White tried to be promoted to lieutenant, she was passed over by another candidate who her superiors legitimately thought was a better fit for the position, Mathers said. It was then that White lodged her complaint about Valdez, Mathers said.
Valdez’s own promotion to lieutenant was delayed by the investigations against him, Mathers said. The attorney said Valdez started as a deputy in the 1980s and is a “dedicated member of the Sheriff’s Department.”

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