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Jury sides with Burbank in female police officer's discrimination case

Verdict rejects discrimination and retaliation claims made by Officer Cindy Guillen.

May 15, 2012|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

A lawsuit filed by a female Burbank police officer who claims she faced discrimination because of her pregnancy, and then retaliation when she complained, was rejected by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury on Monday.

The verdict came days after a judge threw out portions of the original lawsuit filed by Officer Cindy Guillen, including that she faced harassment based on her ethnicity and gender.

Her attorney, Solomon Gresen, had sought up to $500,000 for pain and suffering, and $30,000 for lost wages due a lost assignment, but on Monday, the jury sided with the city, which painted Guillen in court as someone who holds grudges and was capitalizing on the Police Department's recent legal woes.

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Guillen's trial was the third involving a Burbank police officer in the last three months, and marks the first time a jury sided with the city.

Her attorney, Solomon Gresen, did not respond to requests for further comment.

City Atty. Amy Albano said the verdict validated the city's contention that Guillen's claims were without merit.

“We believed that Ms. Guillen had not been discriminated against or retaliated against,” Albano said. “We are pleased that the jury system worked for us in this case.”

In her original complaint, Guillen — who is one of 15 females in a department of 157 sworn officers — alleged she was told by a sergeant that she should be quiet or he would bend her over and sexually assault her.

But harassment claims based on gender and race were removed from the trial last week, and jurors were told not to consider that testimony in their deliberations.

With the lawsuit over, Albano acknowledged that Guillen's return to work had the potential to create awkward situations.

“Obviously, no matter where that is, it's a very difficult thing for the employee and everyone involved,” Albano said.

But she pointed out that the police department is a different organization than when Guillen made her allegations.

“It's my understanding that the complaints happened before the changes with the current command staff,” Albano said, referring to Interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse, Deputy Chief Tom Angel and two captains who took over the department in 2010 following probes by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the FBI.

“We look forward to having this behind us and moving forward. One of the goals of the department with these lawsuits is to continue the work of the department and do what we do best, which is to protect the citizens of this city,” Albano added.

Guillen and four other current and former officers filed a joint lawsuit in 2009.

Three officers were dropped from the case, including former Lt. Omar Rodriguez, who has a case pending in federal court.

A jury awarded Det. Steve Karagiosian $150,000 in April.

Karagiosian alleged ethnic harassment due to his Armenian heritage.

In March, a jury awarded former Deputy Chief William Taylor nearly $1.3 million after siding with his claims that he too faced retaliation for trying to address departmental issues.

Other former officers are going through the city's arbitration process and a former detective also has a federal case pending that involves allegations of retaliation and misconduct during the Porto's Bakery robbery in 2007.

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