TRIAL BEGINS IN MALDEF EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION SUIT AGAINST ORANGE COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT
MALDEF Seeks Implementation of Impartial Promotion Policies and Practices and to End Pervasive Culture of Discrimination in Westminster Police Department
SANTA ANA, CA - On Tuesday, January 28, 2014, in a suit against the city of Westminster, California, MALDEF will commence trial, in the United States District Court for the Central District of California before the Honorable David O. Carter, to defend the rights of three accomplished Latino police officers who were consistently denied coveted promotions and special assignments because of their national origin. After filing complaints in 2010, the officers experienced severe workplace retaliation from superiors in the form of written reprimands, superfluous internal affairs investigations, negative reviews, and suspension.
In Flores v. City of Westminster, plaintiffs charge that the Westminster Police Department has unlawfully discriminated against Latino police officers and has engaged in a pattern and practice of such discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and of both state and federal employment laws, including California's Fair Housing and Employment Act and 42 U.S.C. Section 1981.
Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel, stated, "The Westminster Police Department has violated the public trust by engaging in unfair and discriminatory practices that target community leaders who epitomize the ideal of self-sacrificing public service. This trial should vindicate their dedication and secure a better department for the entire community."
The plaintiffs include an active-duty Major in the U.S. Marine Corps who has been promoted four times by the Marines; a long-serving police officer recognized with numerous awards including the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Award and the Centurion Award; and an officer who has been granted in excess of ten commendations by the Westminster Police Department, has been twice awarded the Bronze medal of merit, including for saving someone's life, and was recognized as Rookie of the Year in his first year with the Department.
"Despite the Plaintiffs' undisputed qualifications and strong profiles, Westminster gave assignments and promotions to less qualified whites, including officers who just cleared probation," stated Victor Viramontes, MALDEF National Senior Counsel. "We will present this important case to a jury to pursue the rights of these highly qualified Latino officers who have had the door shut in their faces repeatedly"
MALDEF co-counsel, J. Bernard Alexander, III of Alexander Krakow + Glick LLP, stated, "This is an important disparity in treatment case, where Latino officers have been denied special assignments that groom them for promotion within the department. With few exceptions, plum assignments have been reserved for non-Latino officers, whereas Latino officers have been relegated to dead-end, second tier assignments. We are proud to join MALDEF in seeking justice for the brave officers that have stepped forward, and for the officers who silently join in this fight for equal treatment."
MALDEF seeks to compel the Police Department, a public institution that must protect and serve well the entire diverse community, to set the right example by implementing fair promotion policies and practices. This lawsuit addresses the right to fair treatment of Latino police officers who have been denied promotions and access to opportunities for promotion in violation of the law.
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.
For all media inquiries, please contact Larry Gonzalez.