The Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission tentatively ruled Wednesday that two county office workers were victims of retaliation for supporting a fellow employee who complained she had been harassed for racial and religious reasons.
Shirley Hill, a secretary, and Robbie Taylor, a word processor, in the county Department of Health Services had contended that they were unfairly disciplined and demoted for speaking out in a bitter discrimination case involving a Latino co-worker.
Both women, who are black, had testified in 1986 that Gloria Lozano, a fellow employee in the department's Contracts and Grants Division, was subjected to discrimination in the virtually all-black office and was the target of disparate treatment because her Roman Catholic faith did not sit well with one supervisor, who was a "born-again" Christian.
Lozano won a preliminary victory in her case last July before the Civil Service Commission. And both Hill and Taylor filed subsequent complaints against the health department, contending that they had suffered retaliatory measures after testifying against their supervisors and in support of Lozano.
On Wednesday, the Civil Service commissioners voted 4 to 0 to uphold a report from Hearing Officer Sara Adler, who concluded that both women had been singled out because of their roles in the Lozano case.
Adler recommended that the commissioners order the health department to remove two disciplinary notices against Taylor from her personnel file and "to take all reasonable steps" to restore Hill's former duties as a "lead secretary" in the division.
Taylor, a seven-year county employee, said that when she returned to work after testifying in the Lozano case, she was called a "Judas" and "traitor" by co-workers and was threatened with a transfer from her department. Hill, who has worked for the county for 15 years, claimed that her duties were systematically reduced in the aftermath of the Lozano case.
Not a Final Ruling
The commission will not make a final ruling until both sides have an opportunity to file objections in the case. But Rees Lloyd, an attorney for the Chicano Employees Assn. of Los Angeles County, which represented all three women in their Civil Service hearings, called the tentative decision significant.
"This is a victory, I think, for all the employees in the county who want to have the freedom to protest against discrimination and other illegal acts and want to blow the whistle on them," Lloyd said.
Charles Canales, the health department's chief Civil Service representative, said he will file objections with the commission, arguing against the hearing officer's report.
"We feel that decisions management took were appropriate and were not motivated by discrimination or any recrimination against those employees for having testified," Canales said.