A lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles by two siblings who allege they wrongfully lost their jobs after more than 10 years of working at a Catholic church office in Lynwood will have to be shored up for it to proceed on all the current allegations, a judge ruled Friday.
Susana Montoya and Patricia Garcia brought the lawsuit last September in Los Angeles Superior Court, saying they were retaliated against after reporting what they believed was an inappropriate relationship between a school principal and a priest.
Also named as defendants are the Rev. Ernesto Jaramillo of St. Philip Neri Church and Alejandra Gonzales, principal of St. Philip Neri Catholic School.
In his ruling, Judge Terry Green said Montoya can move forward with her wrongful termination claim, but that Garcia needs more facts to support hers. He also said one of the Labor Code claims filed by the sisters needs more details.
Green said there was enough information to support the siblings’ emotional distress claim, despite an argument by Archdiocese attorney Edrik Mehrabi that the alleged flirtatious conduct between the priest and principal was neither “outrageous” nor directed at the plaintiffs.
“I can put myself in their shoes and see how it could be outrageous,” the judge said, noting that the alleged actions occurred in a church environment.
Green gave the plaintiffs’ attorneys 20 days to file an amended suit and set a post-mediation status conference for Jan. 13.
The sisters were hired before 2010, with Garcia working as a secretary and Montoya primarily as a bookkeeper.
Gonzales began working with the sisters in 2018 and she and Jaramillo became “flirtatious” with each other, the suit alleges.
“This was disturbing to the employees, including, plaintiffs,” the suit says. “Rumors about their sexual involvement circulated in the workplace.”
Montoya was asked by other employees to address the issue because she was a longtime employee, but after she confronted Jaramillo, both she and her sister began being harassed by the priest and Gonzales, the suit alleges.
“In addition to the sexual improprieties by defendants in the workplace, plaintiff Susanna reported financial improprieties by Alejandra Gonzales,” the suit alleges.
In December 2018, Jaramillo and Gonzales called Montoya into the school office and falsely accused her of not doing her job, the suit alleges. Montoya then complained to bishops of the archdiocese and to human resources, according to the lawsuit.
“During this time frame, the harassment and retaliation against the two plaintiffs continued,” the suit alleges.
Montoya was taken off work in February 2019 by her doctor due to her stress, but her employer did not give her proper information about presenting a workers’ compensation claim, the suit states.
Harassment and intimidation by Jaramillo and Gonzales forced Garcia out of her job in June 2019 and Montoya was fired last Sept. 10, the suit alleges.
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