LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Sergeant Mitchell Grobeson, the LAPD’s first openly gay officer, was retaliated against at work after he accused the city of discrimination for a second time, his lawyer told a jury Thursday.
Grobeson’s lawyer, Dan Stormer, alleges that after rejoining the department, Grobeson was assigned to a station reportedly known for having a hostile work environment. He also was not allowed, as promised, to be involved in any training programs designed to help the department overcome anti-gay sentiment, Stormer said.
Stormer said,”They were going to punish him for bringing a lawsuit.” As a result of the retaliation, Stormer also added that his client is not the strong man he used to be. “The person you see in front of you is a shell of his former self. I hate to say it, but he’s a broken man.”
Lawyer Susan Coleman, representing the city, said Grobeson “was setting up his second lawsuit from day one.”
She accused Grobeson of often disobeying orders, and alleging he was not a “team player” and put his own interests ahead of the LAPD’s.
“He was not building bridges, he was burning them,” Coleman said.
Judge James Dunn ruled in April 2008 that Grobeson, now 53, should have a new trial because a juror — who voted in favor of the city during the first trial in 2007 — admitted prejudging the case.
During that 2007 trial, Grobeson sought $4.4 million in both back pay and compensatory damages.
Coleman denied Grobeson was the victim of retaliation. She said he was often insubordinate — namely attending events in uniform without permission. She said he was ordered out of his uniform at one gay pride parade. Grobeson disobeyed the order, she said.
Grobeson first sued the city in 1988, alleging sexual orientation employment discrimination. He resigned under pressure from the LAPD in 1988 and then worked for the San Francisco State University Police Department and the San Francisco Police Department, Stormer said.
Stormer says Grobeson always wanted to return to the LAPD, and did so because he was impressed by then-Chief Willie L. Williams’ assertions that the department would no longer tolerate discrimination against gays and lesbian employees.
In contrast, Williams’ predecessor, Daryl Gates, “had a big history of homophobia,” Stormer said.
Grobeson filed the second suit in 1996, alleging that the city and the LAPD violated the original settlement. The city and Grobeson reached an agreement in October 2007 on part of the second suit when the city agreed to write into the administrative code guidelines strengthening its anti-discrimination policies concerning gays. The city also agreed to pay Grobeson more than $636,000 in lawyers’ fees.
However, Grobeson’s request for back pay was not resolved, resulting in the trial that ended in the city’s favor in December 2007 and now being heard by a new jury.
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