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Oxnard, Officer Settle Sexual Harassment Suit

Grievance: Police Department's first female sergeant will be paid $500,000 to end claim filed two years ago.

March 24, 2000|CATHERINE BLAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

OXNARD — The city has agreed to pay a female police sergeant $500,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit that she says she never wanted to file.

Sgt. Jana Young, 42, claimed in a 1998 federal suit that she was denied a promotion to head the major crimes unit and repeatedly harassed by comments and sexual depictions in a weekly internal publication called "The Wolf News."

"It was never an issue of money," Young said Thursday. "It was an issue of not being treated equally and fairly."

Young, the department's first female sergeant, said top managers need to encourage female officers and punish those who harass them.

"I was there 21 years and didn't want to sue," she said. "I tried to settle this. But I complained so many times and nothing was done, that I was forced to sue in order to have them listen."

The settlement does not mean the department is admitting guilt, said attorney Debby Hambleton, who represented Oxnard.

But Police Chief Art Lopez said the department has changed.

"The city was able to uncover some problems that existed," he said. "And we had an opportunity to deal with some of those problems."

He declined to elaborate, but said no officers were fired.

Young said jobs were given to less qualified men and she was verbally humiliated from 1980 to 1998. When she complained, superiors glossed over the incidents, she claimed.

"The settlement reached was fair for everybody involved because it allowed the parties to make their own decisions instead of individuals that didn't have as much knowledge about the facts," Hambleton said.

Lopez, who came to Oxnard after the suit was filed, described the case as an "albatross around the department's neck."

"But it wasn't as bad as it could have been," he said. "We didn't have to go to trial, so we didn't have testimony, and pitting one side against another while rehashing events."

Young's attorney said the sergeant will face difficulties because of the settlement.

"I think she will have problems finding a job. Plus she owes a lot of money to her attorneys," said Shale Krepack, a Santa Monica lawyer who replaced Young's original lawyers.

Young said she was not working, and may be looking for a job soon.

According to the settlement, Young will get $500,000, be retired on physical disability, which will provide a minimum of 51% of her highest salary.

The department will help her get $40,000 in workers compensation and a concealed-weapons permit from the city.

She will also get to keep her badge as a memento and view her personnel files at will. Hambleton said those are standard procedures.

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