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Retaliation alleged in airport police lawsuit

July 20, 2005

Mark R. Madler

A former Bob Hope Airport police officer is suing the airport

authority, the city and her former boss, alleging she was unfairly

fired when she rejected unwanted advances by a female supervisor

while off duty.

Elaine Ruiz, who filed the lawsuit on July 8 in Los Angeles County

Superior Court, is seeking unspecified monetary damages for loss of

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earnings, back pay and emotional distress. The

Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, the city of Burbank and

Sgt. Sheri Dillon were named as the defendants in the lawsuit.

Ruiz was let go as an airport police officer in March 2004 for

what she alleges was retaliation for not entering into a relationship

with Dillon.

"Police departments are supposed to uphold the law not break the

law," Ruiz's attorney Brad Gage said. "It is illegal to harass and

illegal to retaliate."

The authority could not comment on pending litigation, spokeswoman

Lucy Burghdorf said. Ruiz started at the airport police as a

probationary officer in September 2002 and she and Dillon spent time

together off-duty, the suit said.

Ruiz believed the friendship was an extension of the workplace,

and that she could be punished for challenging Dillon's authority,

the suit said.

"They talked about all kinds of things," Gage said, of the

off-duty hours conversations. "My client would talk about a boyfriend

and Sgt. Dillon talked about a girlfriend."

Dillon made comments about Ruiz's appearance and inappropriately

touched her at times, the suit alleges.

Ruiz received an "unacceptable" rating on her final evaluation by

Dillon, leading to her being terminated on March 23, 2004.

The timing of the termination was suspicious as the month before

Ruiz had tried to break off the off-duty relationship with Dillon,

Gage said.

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