The city of Los Angeles and four former members of an elite police unit reached a settlement of the plaintiffs’ whistleblower case, in which the officers alleged they were wrongfully subjected to adverse employment actions after complaining about a material change in their work schedules.
Jury selection in trial of the suit was scheduled to begin Tuesday, but the lawyers for both sides told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa Beaudet on Monday that a resolution of the case was reached, according to court documents obtained by City News Service.
No terms were divulged and it was not immediately clear if the settlement is subject to City Council approval.
Beaudet conducted months of hearings on the case last year.
The four officers were assigned to the Internal Surveillance Unit of the LAPD’s Special Operations Division. Their job was to conduct secret surveillance on LAPD officers suspected of criminal activity. Because of the sensitive nature of their work, they are identified in the lawsuit only as Greg G., Mike B., Juan M. and Jesse S.
According to the lawsuit, Capt. Paul Hernandez was assigned as commanding officer of the SOD in April 2010. Fourteen months later, he changed the schedules of the ISU officers from shifts of 10 hours daily, four days a week, to one in which they were required to put in eight 9-hour days, one 8-hour day and then had one day off.
“He told the officers that if they did not like the new schedule, they could find new jobs,” according to the officers’ attorneys’ court papers.
The lawsuit alleged that the agreement between the city and the police union banned any unilateral changes of the officers’ schedules. The plaintiffs said they complained to their immediate supervisors about the timetable changes.
Hernandez, after finding out that someone had complained about the new schedule to the police union, threatened that officers would be removed from their ISU assignments and forced to leave the SOD, the plaintiffs’ attorneys alleged.
Plaintiff Mike B. reported Hernandez’s alleged threats to Deputy Chief Mark Perez, but nothing was done, according to the officers’ lawyers.
“Rather than protect the officers … Perez expressly signed off on the demotions and transfers of plaintiffs,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys alleged in their court papers.
Lawyers for the City Attorney’s Office argued there was no link between the complaints by the plaintiffs and any allegedly adverse employment actions because a decision was already made to transfer them out of the SOD before Mike B went to Perez. The defense attorneys also said that complaints made to the union were not “protected activity” that made the plaintiffs whistleblowers entitled to protection from employer retaliation.
Lawyers for the officers countered that the transfers and demotions did not occur until after the meeting with Perez, who they say authorized the alleged retaliation plan by Hernandez. The plaintiffs’ lawyers also say there were multiple examples of the officers engaging in “protected activity” and they denied the city’s claims the SOD positions were temporary.
Plaintiff Juan M. has since retired from the LAPD.
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