A veteran Los Angeles police captain who says she was subjected to a hostile work environment after a nude photo of a woman was circulated in the workplace amid false claims that the image depicted the plaintiff can take her case to trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John P. Doyle denied a motion by lawyers for the city to dismiss the case brought in January 2019 by Capt. Lillian Carranza.
In his court papers, defense attorney Mark W. Waterman argued the lawsuit should be tossed for a lack of triable issues.
“It is undisputed that (Carranza) did not see or have knowledge that the subject photo was in her immediate workplace, that no one shared the subject photo with her in her immediate workplace and that she was not directly subjected to any harassing conduct — not even gawking– in her workplace,” Waterman wrote. “She has presented no evidence that her direct work environment was permeated by abusive sexual harassment.”
But in his ruling, the judge found that there is evidence that the photo’s circulation has undermined Carranza’s ability to work as a captain who must lead officers and that she has received sexually oriented text messages on her department phone along with references to her breasts on work-based emails.
“The truth or extent of such facts is a matter for trial,” Doyle wrote, “Further, it is not apparent that the subject photo has stopped circulating.”
Carranza alleges that LAPD command staff knew the naked image was being circulated within the force, along with disparaging comments about her, but didn’t tell the 31-year veteran, who is the commanding officer of Commercial Crimes Division.
Carranza says in a sworn declaration that she first learned of the photo being passed around in November 2018 and that she obtained a copy from a non-LAPD employee.
“I noted that the facial features of the woman in the picture bore a striking resemblance to me, although the photograph was not actually of me,” Carranza says in the declaration. “In fact, I concluded that my own eye appears to have been Photoshopped into the picture.”
After learning about of the widespread circulation of the nude photograph, Carranza says she became “keenly aware that many LAPD employees with whom I interact as I go about conducting my duties are likely to have observed LAPD employees displaying the nude picture or making derogatory comments about me related to this photograph at work.”
Carranza said the dissemination of the photo has left her “extremely humiliated and degraded in all my professional interactions, including with my superiors, subordinates, and co-workers.”
Many department members who Carranza has known for years believed the woman in the image was her, according to the plaintiff, who says she received little support from the LAPD command staff.
“I felt hurt, abandoned and devalued by my superiors … who took no steps to prevent known harm to me from occurring and who stood by and watched, encouraged or simply looked the other way as I was ridiculed, humiliated and degraded by fellow LAPD employees, despite my persistent pleas for help,” Carranza says in her declaration.
Trial of Carranza’s suit is scheduled for March 1.