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California Female Parole Supervisor Awarded $859,000 for Gender Discrimination by Female Superior

California Female Parole Supervisor Awarded $859,000 for Gender Discrimination by Female Superior

A Los Angeles jury has awarded $859,000 in damages to a female state parole supervisor who claimed that her superior, also a woman, discriminated against her based on gender, which caused great emotional distress.

Rebecca Hernandez, 46, was a district supervisor for the Huntington parole office in South Central Los Angeles, and reported to a district administrator. Hernandez developed new programs to aid parolees in their return to the community.

In 2005, a new district administrator, Maria Franco, was hired. Within a few days Franco put Hernandez under investigation, ultimately charging that she had illegally spent department funds and had taken kickbacks from program vendors.

Investigations by the then-California Department of Corrections (CDC) led to a mediation hearing, where Franco’s accusations were taken as true after Hernandez declined to be interviewed. Months later, Hernandez claimed that Franco’s assistant put a urine-like substance in her office; she filed an EEOC complaint, which was later dismissed.

Hernandez was then transferred to the El Monte parole office, but never went to work there because she was out on sick leave due to mental health issues and ulcers. Nine months later, in June 2006, the CDC advised Hernandez that the investigation had gone against her. She was demoted to Parole Agent II.

Hernandez sued the CDC alleging gender discrimination, retaliation, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court dismissed all of the claims except discrimination and resultant emotional distress. The essence of the gender discrimination claim, which involved female on female, was that because there were relatively few women promoted to higher administrative positions, Franco saw Hernandez as a threat to Franco’s own advancement potential. The defense countered that there could be no cause of action for gender discrimination between members of the same sex.

The jury found that the CDC had retaliated against Hernandez. It further determined that Franco’s acts willfully and wantonly aggravated Hernandez’s emotional distress. The jury also expressly found for Hernandez on her claims of discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress. While Hernandez had initially demanded $6.7 million, the CDC did not make a counteroffer to settle.

The jury awarded Hernandez $700,000 in non-economic damages plus $159,000 in economic damages. She was represented by Compton attorney Larry Hopkins. See: Hernandez v. CDC, Los Angeles (CA) Superior Court, Case No. BC350875.

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Related legal case

Hernandez v. CDC