A judge said Thursday she is inclined to allow four current and one former member of the San Gabriel Police Department to move forward with their lawsuit against the city, in which the Asian-American plaintiffs allege they were subjected to discrimination and a hostile work environment in which they were subjected to racial slurs and hindered in their promotion opportunities.
The plaintiffs in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit are Allen Sam, Wei “Gilbert” Lee, Sunny Kim, Vy Van and Nhat Huynh. Kim left the department a month before the suit was filed in November 2017.
Lawyers for the city filed a motion to dismiss the discrimination claims by all of the officers except for Kim. They also sought to have Kim’s causes of action for defamation and unpaid wages eliminated.
During a lengthy hearing, Judge Susan Bryant-Deason issued a tentative ruling denying all of the motions except for Kim’s unpaid wages claim. She noted that the plaintiffs presented evidence that they were subjected to adverse employment actions with a discriminatory motive, including when it came to promotion openings for the position of sergeant.
The judge also said the plaintiffs’ court papers showed some were mocked for their accents and that non-Asian-Americans were given mentorships not offered to the plaintiffs. However, she said she wanted to study some of the issues further before making a final decision, including on Van’s discrimination claim.
Defense attorney Steven Lowery argued that there was no evidence supporting Van’s claim he was subjected to any intentional adverse employment action. He also said that several other officers, including some who were also Asian-American, scored higher on a promotion exam than Huynh did.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Amelia Alvarez said Sam and Huynh have received promotions within the last six months.
Sam submitted a sworn declaration in support of denying the defense dismissal motion.
Throughout my career at SGPD, I have been subjected to harassment based on race and national origin,” Sam said. “This harassment has included, but is not limited to, my fellow officers using mock Asian accents … and hearing disparaging comments based on negative stereotypes about Asian people, such as comments that Asian people cannot drive well.”
The SGPD’s officers and members of management participated in the alleged harassment, Sam said.
Huynh also submitted a declaration, alleging his supervisor in the detective bureau, Sgt. Jeff Whitney, was hostile toward him.
“Sgt. Whitney often accused me of not working and would ask me questions like, “Are you even doing anything right now?,” Huynh said.
Whitney would ask Huynh such questions even when Huynh was busy completing tasks, such as surveillance or collecting evidence, he said.
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