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L.A. County Settles Sexual and Racial Harassment Suit for $300,000

August 31, 2005|Jack Leonard | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County will pay more than $300,000 to settle claims brought by an employee who said she was subjected to racial and sexual harassment by a top manager in the county's Department of Public Works.

County supervisors voted 4-0 behind closed doors Tuesday to settle the case after a county investigation confirmed Diane Lee's allegations. The investigation also found more than a dozen other women who complained about the behavior of the manager, Thomas J. Remillard, who was fired a year ago.

The case was one of several legal issues that the board settled at its weekly meeting, including two medical malpractice cases involving county hospitals and a class-action lawsuit filed against software giant Microsoft Corp.

In March 2004, Lee, the chief information officer for public works, complained about Remillard, a deputy director in the department. The county's Office of Affirmative Action Compliance hired an outside firm to investigate the allegations filed by Lee, along with other allegations filed against Remillard by another female worker.

Interviewing retired and current employees, investigators found 14 other women who also accused Remillard of making inappropriate remarks to them, according to records filed with the county's Civil Service Commission. Four of those women complained that the behavior was continuous and interfered with their work performance. In a termination letter filed with the Civil Service Commission when Remillard was fired, then-interim director of public works Donald Wolfe outlined the probe's findings.

Despite Lee's objections, he wrote, Remillard made sexually suggestive remarks to Lee, touched her lap, repeatedly called her at home, tried to kiss her and mimicked Asians, Hispanics and blacks in the workplace. After she filed a complaint, the letter said, Remillard criticized Lee's work performance and made racial slurs against her.

Remillard and Lee did not return telephone calls for comment.

Under the settlement, Lee will receive $265,000 and up to $20,000 to pay for psychological counseling in the wake of the harassment. The county will also pay her attorney $15,675.

In a confidential memo obtained by The Times, county lawyers recommended that supervisors settle the claims.

The fact that the county had found Lee's complaints to be credible would make a legal defense "challenging," the lawyers wrote.

Also Tuesday, the board unanimously voted to pay $350,000 to settle a wrongful-death suit involving a woman who was diagnosed with hepatitis at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center.

Medical staff discharged Robin Garcia, 21, without scheduling a follow-up appointment in a timely manner, according to a memo by county lawyers. Her health deteriorated and she died of liver failure before a liver transplant could be performed.

In a second malpractice case, supervisors agreed to pay $127,500 to a 55-year-old woman whose left leg was amputated below the knee after staff members at County-USC Medical Center failed to properly treat a blood clot that developed after colon surgery.

In both cases, county lawyers wrote that the medical work "fell below the standard of care" and was directly responsible for the injuries.

Supervisors also approved a settlement in a class-action lawsuit the county had brought with other local government agencies in California against Microsoft.

The suit had accused the company of using its monopoly in personal computer software to overcharge them.

The details of the settlement were not immediately made public.

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