A Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation worker who alleged he endured harassment from supervisors who falsely perceived him to be homosexual has accepted a judge’s $5 million reduction of his $17.4 million award by a jury in June.
Attorneys for James Pearl filed court papers Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court stating that they will not challenge Judge Stephen Czuleger’s decision to decrease the award to $12.4 million. In his ruling, the judge also said that managers and employees for the city “perjured themselves repeatedly during trial … to protect themselves and their jobs” and that the dishonesty was apparent to both him and to the jury.
“They had no concern for the sanctity of their oath,” Czuleger said.
Lawyers for the city had asked Czuleger for a new trial. The judge conditionally granted the motion on Sept. 5 but gave the plaintiff the option of agreeing to the smaller amount instead.
Czuleger stated in his written ruling that the jury’s decision to give Pearl $10 million for his pain and suffering was “especially high and unwarranted.”
The judge also said he was concerned that one of the plaintiff’s attorneys told the panel during closing arguments that their verdict would “send a message” to the city.
While the comment was not likely a reversible error on appeal, it may have “acted to appeal to the passions of the jury,” the judge said.
“That, combined with the outrageous conduct of the city’s witnesses at trial in perjuring themselves, causes the court to believe that the jury doubled the (pain and suffering) damages here,” the judge wrote.
Pearl was hired in 2002 and was promoted to a supervisor four years later. But because his bosses believed he was gay, Pearl “endured various insults, criticisms, demeaning comments, suggestive remarks, offensive posters, cartoons … concerning his alleged sexual orientation,” according to court papers filed by his lawyers.
“Plaintiff is heterosexual, however he was harassed and discriminated against because supervisors and managers in the department perceived him as being homosexual and these same supervisors and managers have a long history of discriminating and harassing homosexual employees,” according to Pearl’s attorneys.
A photoshopped image depicted Pearl and another employee as homosexual lovers and included images of city vehicles in the background, according to Pearl’s court papers.
Pearl was fired in August 2011 on various allegations, including falsification of documents regarding work shifts of employees under his supervision, according to the city’s court papers. He appealed and was reinstated a year later, then went on medical leave in December 2013.
While he was off work, Pearl lost a commercial property he owned through foreclosure, was forced to apply for public assistance, including food stamps, and was forced to rely on church food programs to feed himself and his family, according to his attorneys’ court papers.
–City News Service
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