On November 1, 2016, a Los Angeles County jury rejected a $9 Million Dollar demand by a City librarian, who claimed the City discriminated and retaliated against her. After a three week trial, the jury only deliberated a few hours before finding in favor of the City.
City Attorney Charles Parkin stated, “While the City takes its responsibility to prevent workplace harassment very seriously, it will always vigorously defend the City against meritless claims.”
The plaintiff, Catrina Hanna (“Hanna”), worked for a number of years as a librarian at the City’s Main Library located at the downtown Civic Center. During 2012, Hanna complained to library management that a man, apparently living in Lincoln Park near the library, was sexually harassing her. The actual nature of the interactions between this person and Hanna was the subject of extensive testimony during trial. The City presented substantial evidence that these interactions amounted to only a few seconds of passing contacts, some of which were not even at the library. Although Hanna claimed that this person blew kisses at her, and exposed himself, none of these claims were ultimately proven.
Nevertheless, library management took several steps to address Hanna’s concerns, including obtaining a protective order against the individual and temporarily banning the man from the library. During trial, Hanna claimed these steps were ineffective, and that the City failed to adequately address her concerns that the actions by this person created an unsafe workplace, in violation of California’s Labor Code. Hanna also claimed that as a consequence of these brief encounters, she developed a stress related disability.
Despite her claim that working at the library had become too stressful for her, Hanna applied for a promotion to a supervisory position within the Main Library Branch. Shortly after a more experienced librarian was selected for the position, Hanna voluntarily quit her library job.
Hanna’s lawsuit against the City of Long Beach alleged that the library management retaliated and discriminated against her for reporting her interactions with this individual, which Hanna characterized as reporting an unsafe working condition, and also because she had a stress related disability. She contended that the City’s failure to promote her was discriminatory and motivated by retaliation. Finally, Hanna claimed that she did not voluntarily leave her job with the library, but was forced out because of stressful, unsafe working conditions. Hanna sought significant monetary damages for all of these claims.
The jury declined to award Hanna any damages, thus finding in favor of the City. Since the City is the prevailing party, under California law Hanna is required to pay the City’s litigation costs.
The City was defended by the Long Beach City Attorney’s Office. The trial attorney for the City was Deputy City Attorney Haleh R. Jenkins.