Another veteran Los Angeles Police Department officer is suing the city, alleging he was wrongfully demoted after being falsely accused of being part of a so-called “blue flu” officer sickout during the July 4 weekend.
Officer Luis Rodarte brought the lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging retaliation and violation of the state Labor Code. He says he lawfully took time off to care for his sick daughter.
Rodarte seeks unspecified damages. A representative for the City Attorney’s Office could not be immediately reached.
Hundreds of officers called in ill over the July 4 weekend, according to media reports. The sickout came after a period in which officers dealt with protests in May over the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, the Los Angeles City Council’s slashing of $150 million from the police budget and the diversion of funds for other purposes in the wake of demands for changes in policing.
Under the state Labor Code and the “Kin Care” statute amendment that then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in 2016, employers are required to provide paid sick leave to address a worker’s own illness or that of the employee’s child, spouse or parent.
Rodarte is assigned to Devonshire Division and was part of the gang enforcement detail. He alleges that prior to the July 4 weekend, Chief Michel Moore met with members of command staff and made a plan to “unlawfully harass, discipline and retaliate against each and every LAPD employee who availed themselves of their paid medical leave,” the suit states.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League convened with the chief before July 4 and advised him that interfering with an officer’s right to paid medical leave was unlawful, according to the suit.
On July 3, Rodarte sent a text message to his supervisor informing him that his young daughter was ill and he had to stay home and care for her, the suit states. The boss recorded Rodarte’s valid use of paid medical leave and submitted the paperwork to a watch commander, the suit states.
Later that day, Valley Bureau Deputy Chief Jorge Rodriguez called Rodarte’s supervisor and told him to call the plaintiff and tell him he “had an obligation to the public and it was unacceptable for him to not be at work,” the suit states.
Rodriguez also said that if Rodarte “wanted to act this way he could go back to patrol,” the suit states.
Rodarte took his leave as planned and returned July 5, when he was told to attend a meeting that evening convened by Rodriguez and Commander Alan Hamilton, the suit states.
In front of about 40 officers who took medical leave over the July 4 weekend, Rodriguez said, “You are lucky to have a job, a lot of people are unemployed” and “The LAPD has been good to you and allowed you to live outside of the city, so you don’t have to live somewhere like Pacoima,” the suit states.
Rodarte resides in Pacoima.
Hamilton later spoke and “unlawfully demanded to know the reason that each officer used their paid medical leave,” the suit states.
After the meeting, Rodarte’s supervisor told him that Rodriguez sent him a text stating that the plaintiff and other gang enforcement detail officers who used paid medical leave would be “kicked out” of the unit, the suit states.
Rodarte was on vacation last summer when he learned he had been reassigned to patrol effective Aug. 2, the suit states. Two months later, he suffered a back injury while on-duty in October and his doctor has not yet approved his return to work, the suit states.
Rodarte believes that when he resumes his LAPD job, he will be served with papers demoting him in the wake of his removal from the gang detail, his reassignment to patrol and the denial of a training position that would have averted the demotion, the suit states.
The suit is similar to ones brought in November by officers Ryan Putman and Meggan Stroup. Putman is an 11-year veteran of the LAPD who is assigned to Valley Traffic Division’s special traffic enforcement detail, the suit states. He took July 3 off for “a valid illness,” but in retaliation, the LAPD accused Putman of unlawfully abusing his paid sick leave, of lying and of conspiring to and engaging in an illegal work protest, falsely labeling him as a “blue-flu’er,” Putman’s suit states.
Stroup, an eight-year LAPD veteran assigned to patrol duties with the Foothill Traffic Division, also felt ill July 3 and took sick time off before returning July 6, her suit states. When Stroup returned to work, she heard “comments, fears, opinions and chatter about an alleged `blue flu’ and the consequences,” her suit states.
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