A Los Angeles jury has awarded a former city sanitation worker $17.4 million after finding that he suffered ongoing harassment by supervisors who perceived that he was gay, Los Angeles Times reports.
Jurors unanimously decided that James Pearl, who is married to a woman, was subjected to verbal abuse, hazing, and bullying that included a Photoshopped picture showing him in an sexual situation with a male subordinate. The photo was circulated among city employees.
According to court papers, supervisors failed to take action when one of Pearl’s colleagues alerted Bureau of Sanitation management about the mistreatment.
Pearl, who began working for the Bureau of Sanitation in 2002, first filed a discrimination complaint in 2011, alleging that he had been transferred on the basis of being black and as retaliation for complaining about a fellow worker’s misconduct. He was then fired, which Pearl also reported as retaliation and motivated by his perceived sexual orientation.
The L.A. Board of Civil Service Commission ultimately determined that Pearl’s termination was unfounded, and he was reinstated to his position more than a year later. Upon his return, however, Pearl was given a lower-paying shift and was assigned the same supervisor who had circulated the offending photo. Superiors continued addressing Pearl by derogatory terms, and he found objects at his desk that were “suggestive of or related to homosexual sex.”
Pearl, now 55, has been on permanent disability and suffers from physical and psychological damage, his attorney claims. The city is considering an appeal.