Lawsuits filed by public employees alleging discrimination, retaliation or other prohibited workplace conduct have cost The City more than $11 million over the past five years. And the legal bill would be even higher if not for the fact that most workplace bullying is legal, a public employee advocacy group claims.
Since 2007, The City has awarded cash settlements in 103 lawsuits filed by former or current employees claiming various abuses, according to City Attorney’s Office figures. That includes nearly $3 million paid out in 18 racial discrimination cases and more than $1 million in 25 disability discrimination cases.
Prominent retaliation cases include a pair of 911 dispatchers who received $762,000 after city employees violated federal communications law, a jury found. And a former Laguna Honda Hospital doctor received $750,000 after he sued for allegedly being laid off for complaining about misuse of a patient gift fund.
“It’s partly incompetence and partly corruption,” said Dr. Derek Kerr, the Laguna Honda doctor whose settlement included whistle-blower training for the supervisors he accused of having orchestrated his ouster.
Many more instances of workplace abuse, threats or intimidation remain legal because they do not involve racial, sexual or age discrimination, according to United Workers for Public Action, who are pushing state legislation to make workplace bullying illegal.
Thus far the bill has no sponsor.