Lawsuit - Photo courtesy of Castleski on Shutterstock

A gay former West Covina Unified School District principal is suing her former employer, alleging she was forced to resign earlier this year because of harassment as well as sexual orientation and gender discrimination.

Candace Leuthold’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit also alleges she was paid less than a male colleague with equal responsibilities. She seeks unspecified damages.

A WCUSD representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit, brought Thursday.

Leuthold was hired in September 2017 and served as principal of Mt. SAC Early College Academy, the suit states. In 2018, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Denise Knutsen told Leuthold that she needed to wear a suit or a skirt, even though men holding the same positions were not required to wear suits, according to the complaint.

Knutsen also told Leuthold to work with Lisa Maggiore, a woman that the plaintiff supervised and who was gay like Leuthold, to change her appearance because Knutsen “couldn’t tell if she was a custodian or an assistant principal based on her attire,” the suit states.

However, Leuthold’s supervision of Maggiore was ended when the plaintiff disclosed to Knutsen and another administrator that she and Maggiore were living together, according to the suit.

A male co-worker performing the same duties as Knutsen was paid more than her, but then-Superintendent Charles Hinman did not explain the disparity when the plaintiff asked why, the suit states.

When Leuthold proposed two classes for the spring 2022 semester, Introduction to Sex and Gender Roles and Introduction to LGBTQ Studies, Knutsen rejected both ideas and “insinuated that plaintiff had an agenda because of her sexual orientation,” the suit states.

In December, Leuthold was notified that she was being reassigned to the district office in the wake of an investigation regarding an anonymous complaint involving her relationship with her same-sex co-worker and its alleged impact on her leadership of Mt. SAC Early College Academy, the suit states.

“Additionally, the finding contained allegations that Leuthold was not qualified to lead MECA and that she had retaliated against individuals who complained about MECA administration, effectively silencing the staff,” the suit states.

In April, Leuthold was directed not to speak to Maggiore during the school day under threat of discipline, and two months later, she was reassigned to an elementary school as a physical education teacher, even though she had never before taught at an elementary school or instructed on physical education, according to the suit. Her pay also was cut by 30%, the suit states.

Leuthold resigned from the WCUSD on July 29 due to the “discrimination, harassment and retaliation” she was experiencing, according to the suit. She has suffered financially and also experienced “profound pain and emotional distress,” according to her suit.

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