A jury awarded $3 million in damages to a Los Angeles police officer who said she suffered a backlash by being placed under surveillance for complaining about sexual harassment by a supervisor.
The Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for about an hour before returning its verdict in favor of Officer Linda Allstot on Wednesday. The damages will compensate her for her past and future emotional distress.
“We’re all very pleased that she has been able to get her name back and has been vindicated,” said Marla Brown, one of Allstot’s lawyers.
Brown said the case was very emotional and difficult for the plaintiff, in part because Deputy Chief Debra McCarthy, the head of Allstot’s bureau and part of the LAPD command staff, testified against her. But the jury believed Allstot’s version of events over McCarthy’s, Brown said.
Allstot said she was subjected to inappropriate remarks and gestures by Lt. Wayne Lightfoot, who retired in March. She said that McCarthy “took no steps to keep Lightfoot from interacting” with her, and that the department retaliated against Allstot for complaining by having undercover officers monitor her.
“You break that code of silence, you’re going to be subject to retaliation,” Allstot’s lead attorney, Gregory W. Smith, told jurors during final arguments Wednesday.
The stigma from Allstot’s experiences with Lightfoot continues to this day, Smith said.
“She is going to work now looking over her shoulder,” he said.
Smith blamed McCarthy for allegedly not taking steps to stop Lightfoot from using his position to harass Allstot.
“Debra McCarthy betrayed her (Allstot) when she went in and complained,” Smith said.
Deputy City Attorney Susan Rim told the panel there were no witnesses to support Allstot’s claims and that she also lacked any documentation. Agreeing that no one should feel unsafe in the workplace, she said Allstot’s case boiled down to other things.
“What the plaintiff is seeking here is compensation for hurt feelings,” Rim said.
The “best employee in the world” is not immune from being watched if the right circumstances occur, she said. “Anybody can be surveilled if it is reasonable.”
Allstot, who works in the LAPD’s Professional Standards Bureau overseen by McCarthy, said the inappropriate comments by Lightfoot occurred “multiple times per month” from late 2013 to mid-2014. Lightfoot was McCarthy’s adjutant, according to Allstot’s court papers.
The plaintiff “also received unwelcome sexual advances from Lt. Lightfoot, including repeated invitations to vacation with him at Lake Havasu and Cabo San Lucas,” her court papers stated.
Allstot is married to LAPD Capt. Rolando Solano, who testified on her behalf and sat with her in the audience during final arguments. Solano was among the officers who were at the scene of the 1991 police beating of Rodney King, but neither participated in the attack nor were charged with any crimes.
Brown said Allstot still works for McCarthy in the PSB, but that she would probably be taking Thursday off.