A jury in the Los Angeles County Superior Court found that the Los Angeles Unified School District retaliated against lawyer Jesus Melendez for raising concerns about the District’s discriminatory practices against Latinos in promotion decisions at the District’s Office of General Counsel. On October 22, 2018, the Superior Court entered judgment for Mr. Melendez in the amount of $210,833, in addition to his attorneys’ fees and costs, which are estimated at over $1,000,000. Dan Stormer and Caitlan McLoon of Hadsell Stormer Renick and attorney Toni Jaramilla of Toni J. Jaramilla, A Professional Law Corporation, represented Melendez.
Jesus Melendez has worked as an attorney in LAUSD’s Office of General Counsel for over thirty years. In 2003, he voiced concerns that LAUSD discriminated against Latinos in the Office of General Counsel in terms of pay and promotions. At the time, there were no Latinos in any of the 20 management positions in that office. Melendez filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing for race discrimination. In 2011 when Mr. Melendez applied for a promotion, LAUSD highlighted his 2003 complaint of discrimination as a “significant issue” that management should consider in deciding whether he was right for the job. “That’s clearly unlawful, and not surprisingly, Mr. Melendez didn’t get the position, and ultimately, we sued,” commented Dan Stormer. “This case started solely because LAUSD has chosen to have Mexican Americans clearly underrepresented on its legal staff. Of 42 LAUSD attorneys in 2003, Jesus Melendez was one of only two Latinos, and these two attorneys were the lowest paid. When Melendez claimed discrimination, LAUSD folded and raised their salaries.”
The trial was held in the Courtroom of Superior Court Judge Randolph M. Hammock from Wednesday, September 12, 2018 through Friday, September 21, 2018. The District’s witnesses, including Personnel Commissioners Joseph Paller, Jr. and Mark Vargas, denied acting inappropriately in their selection process. A jury rejected their testimony after six days of trial and one day of deliberations. The jury ruled that LAUSD had retaliated against Mr. Melendez by using the prior discrimination claim as a substantial motivating factor in denying him the promotion. “I feel justice has been served,” said Melendez. “I want to make sure that LAUSD employees do not face retaliation for standing up for their rights and speaking out when they see discrimination. I am just so grateful to the members of the jury for holding LAUSD accountable for their bad acts.”
Daily Journal — October 31, 2018