A longtime Los Angeles County prosecutor is suing the county, alleging she was repeatedly harassed and denied promotions by individuals within the office she believed were trying to destroy her career.
Deputy District Attorney Linda Baek’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges gender discrimination, retaliation, disability discrimination and failure to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
Baek seeks unspecified damages in the suit brought Monday. A representative for the District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the suit.
“The facts in this case stem from a coordinated pattern of continuing violations that began when Ms. Baek complained of sexual harassment by a co-worker in 2014,” the suit states.
While Baek was hopeful for positive changes with the election of District Attorney George Gascon, “the same actors in the … Human Resource Departments of the county and the District Attorney’s Office have continued the pattern of retaliation, which has effectively destroyed Ms. Baek’s once-promising career,” the suit states.
From Baek’s 1995 hiring until 2014, she was on a positive career track, receiving favorable assignments and promotions, the suit states. She served for a time in the five-lawyer hate crimes unit along with future District Attorney Jackie Lacey, according to the suit.
In 2014, Baek met Bob Knapp, a retired Los Angeles Police Department officer referred to by some as an “institution” who was working as a juvenile case hearing officer in the district attorney’s Long Beach branch, according to the suit.
“In her first meeting with Mr. Knapp, Ms. Baek found him strange, particularly when he said, `I love you, Linda’ after having just met her,” the suit states.
In a subsequent encounter in Baek’s office, Knapp allegedly put his hand on her back and started groping at her bra strap before “she then threw him out of the office.”
When Baek complained to a supervisor, the boss “minimized her claims and did nothing,” the suit states.
The supervisor’s alleged failure to do anything about Knapp’s conduct “began a continuing pattern of suppression and retaliation that has essentially destroyed Ms. Baek’s career with the District Attorney’s office, and which continues to date,” the suit states.
After Baek returned in August 2015 from a year-long family leave to deal with her daughter’s medical condition, she was demoted to handling preliminary hearings, an assignment normally given to new lawyers in the office, the suit states.
Baek later moved to the post-conviction and discovery unit headed by Deputy District Attorney Brian Schirn.
“It soon became clear, however, that this was actually a choreographed move to further destroy her career and hold her hostage under Schirn’s abusive thumb,” the suit states.
Schirn enjoyed a uniquely powerful spot in the Lacey administration position because he was a close friend with Joey Esposito, Lacey’s second-in-command, the suit states. Schirn “considered himself untouchable: and often bragged about how he manipulated the careers of others to suit his needs,” according to the suit. “It quickly became clear that Ms. Baek was sent to Schirn to have her career killed.”
Baek filed complaints about her treatment and additional complaints were filed by others on her behalf, but each of them were “suppressed” without any investigation, the suit states.
Baek received a letter from an employee relations attorney on April 13 stating that she is the subject of an administrative investigation, allegedly regarding “violations of the policies and rules of the county of Los Angeles and the District Attorney’s Office.”
According to Baek’s suit, the letter did not specify how she allegedly violated the rules and “appears to be the latest in the continuing series of efforts to destroy her career and retaliate for raising legitimate complaints of harassment, discrimination and retaliation.”
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