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John Wayne Airport Worker Sues County, Claiming Harassment

Painter says she was targeted because she is a lesbian. She is seeking $500,000 in damages.

April 13, 2004|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

A painter at John Wayne Airport has sued Orange County, saying she was singled out for harassment because she is gay and forced to work the graveyard shift as a form of punishment.

Dana Darnell said the pattern of discrimination continued despite her complaints and that the county never investigated her claims of harassment by a male supervisor and co-workers.

She is seeking $500,000 in damages. An airport spokesman declined to make a statement, saying it's county policy not to comment on personnel matters.

Darnell, who has worked at John Wayne Airport since 1994, said she has been on the graveyard shift most of her career and was rebuffed by her supervisor each time she asked for different hours. The supervisor allegedly increased Darnell's workload.

According to the lawsuit, Darnell complained to other supervisors and the airport's human resources office to no avail. Her complaints were never investigated, according to the lawsuit.Darnell said the harassment and discrimination have caused mental and emotional distress and taken an economic toll. She has been on medical leave since April 2003.

Darnell declined to elaborate on the lawsuit. Her attorney, K.D. Hughes, could not be reached for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Darnell has been subjected to "an ongoing pattern" of harassment and retaliatory conduct since she asked to be taken off the overnight shift seven years ago.

The alleged harassment included bulletin board postings of anti-gay news articles, job ap- plications for fast-food restaurants put in her mailbox, and derogatory remarks by co-workers about her sexual orienta- tion.

She later approached a supervisor with a letter from her physician recommending she be placed on day shift to alleviate her ailments, but was rejected, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, a meeting was held in June 1998 with three supervisors and the airport's human relations representative.

At the meeting, Darnell said she expressed her concerns regarding the pattern of al- leged harassment and discrimination.

Instead, she was threatened with loss of her job, the lawsuit states.

One supervisor told her to "be very careful, young lady, you're going to mess around too much and find yourself without a job," the suit says.

Two days after the meeting, the supervisor told her he had heard about her "causing so much trouble" at the meeting and that she "would never be taken off graveyard," according to court documents. She eventually was put on the day shift but the harassment continued, according to her lawsuit.

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