A former Montebello police detective can move forward for now with most of her claims in her lawsuit in which she alleges she was forced to work in an environment where men were given preferential treatment in everything from promotions to considerations for exemptions from the city’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Plaintiff Maria Chavez’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit also alleges she was wrongfully fired in 2022 for refusing to be vaccinated for religious reasons. Her suit also names as defendants City Manager Rene Bobadilla and Nicholas T. Razo, the city’s director of human resources.

On Tuesday, Judge Anne Richardson ruled that Chavez can proceed with her claims against the city for wrongful termination and failure to promote — both under the category of gender discrimination — as well as her allegation of a hostile work environment.

However, the judge said Chavez will have to shore up her claim against the city for failure to accommodate a religious belief as well as her hostile work environment assertion against Bobadilla and Razo for those allegations to remain part of the overall complaint.

“(Chavez) has not pled that the city could have accommodated her religious belief without undue burden, especially given the information the city was receiving from federal, state, and local health authorities at the time,” the judge wrote.

Richardson gave Chavez’s attorneys 10 days to file an amended complaint.

In her lawsuit, Chavez seeks unspecified compensatory damages against the city and the two individuals, plus punitive damages against the men.

“In short, Chavez was treated differently than her male colleagues during the vaccine mandate process and she was terminated due to the discriminatory conduct of the (city),” according to the suit, which further states that the plaintiff was one of the only female detectives in the MPD.

Chavez was routinely excluded from MPD meetings by her male colleagues, the suit states.

“It was clear that Chavez was not wanted in the MPD and the new vaccine policy was the perfect way to get rid of her under a thin veneer of legality,” the suit brought Nov. 23 states.

Chavez started her career in law enforcement as a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in 2006 and was hired by the MPD the next year, working patrol, the suit states. She was promoted to corporal in 2013 and five years later became a detective responsible for investigating crimes against children, according to the suit.

During her MPD career, the plaintiff experienced discrimination that included hearing offensive language about females and viewing inappropriate postings of literature belittling women, the suit states.

“In short, the MPD detective unit was a private men’s club and women were not welcome,” the suit states.

Chavez was twice denied promotions to sergeant in favor of lesser qualified male officers, according to her suit.

The city announced its coronavirus employee vaccine mandate in August 2021, promising to handle requests for religious exemptions on a fair, case-by-case basis, the suit states.

However, Chavez’s interview with Razo when she requested a vaccine exemption only lasted five minutes and he did not ask any questions, the suit states.

“Unfortunately, it became clear that Montebello never intended to follow its own written vaccine policy and that Chavez was going to be terminated no matter what she told Razo,” according to the suit, which further states the plaintiff received a letter from the city in November 2021 stating that her exemption request was denied and that she had not identified a religious doctrine that would exclude her from the vaccine mandate.

“Chavez was shocked and confused because the allegations in the letter painted a false picture of the interview conducted by Razo,” the suit states.

Chavez’s male colleagues’ requests for religious exemptions were mostly rubber-stamped by Razo, who was close personal friends with the male officers seeking exemptions, the suit alleges.

Chavez was put on leave in December 2021 and fired the next month, the suit states.

“The MPD and Montebello used the vaccine mandate to terminate one of the few female detectives in the department and notably the one who complained about the department’s hostility towards female officers,” the suit states.

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