In January 2015 a male former employee filed a sexual orientation discrimination and harassment complaint against the Los Angeles County Counsel. The California DFEH is currently investigating the complaint.
The former employee, who worked as an attorney at the LA County Counsel Office, claims that he was harassed because he is gay and because of his religion and was then retaliated against after he complained to HR about the alleged harassment.
The following are allegations that the former employee made in his DFEH complaint:
The complainant started his employment with County Counsel in 2005. Roger Granbo, Division Chief of the Law Enforcement Department, was not happy to learn that the complainant was hired in spite of his sexual orientation. From the early days of the complainant’s hire, Granbo demonstrated his homophobic propaganda on several occasions. For example, after a Mock Trial seminar attended by all 26 recent hires in 2006, Jonathan McCaverty (“McCaverty”) commented that the complainant had a strong yet “soothing” voice during his oral argument. In response, Granbo, who was sitting next to them, stated “I don’t want any of that Brokeback Mountain stuff here,” which is a commonly known reference to a movie involving a homosexual couple.
Unlawful discriminatory comments about the complainant’s sexual orientation started from his first day of employment. On his first day of work with County Counsel, the complainant was assigned to share an office with Jonathan McCaverty of the Law Enforcement Division. McCaverty’s introductory words to him were, “So, you like sucking dick?” McCaverty was a close friend of Granbo. Granbo had apparently communicated some of the gossip regarding the complainant’s sexual orientation to McCaverty, which explains the fact that McCaverty made the foregoing obscene and highly inappropriate assumption about the complainant’s sexual orientation. Granbo and McCaverty repeatedly asked the complainant at County Counsel social events if he was dating anyone and who his girlfriend was. Granbo even asked him if he was attracted to any of the women in County Counsel, to which he replied: “I’ll stick to Match.com.” While they were sharing an office together, McCaverty constantly showed the complainant gay dating websites and encouraged him to “get laid.”
The complainant was assigned to share an office with Richard Kudo (“Kudo”), another attorney. Kudo engaged in similar types of sexually harassing behavior. For example, each time the complainant would go to lunch with Kudo and other colleagues, Kudo would jokingly ask everyone if they were gay “too”. Kudo also sent the complainant an offensive email stating that “men from India” have the smallest penises and the least sex.
The complainant was later assigned to share an office with a new attorney, Jason Carnevale (“Carnevale”). Carnevale’s first statement to him was, “Are you gay?” When the complainant denied that he was gay, Carnevale said, “You seem gay because you use your hands a lot when you talk.” Later, Carnevale made other outrageous comments to him while they shared an office together. Carnevale once stated, “Don’t close the door. I don’t want people to think we’re making out.” In late 2008, when the complainant started exercising and losing weight, Carnevale and others would ask him, “How’s your immune system doing?” and laugh.
Carnevale and another lawyer, Joseph Langton (“Langton”), would often initiate unprompted discussions about anal sex with him. Carnevale would also volunteer advice, such as, “It felt weird the first time I had sex too.” Langton would frequently tell the complainant that he was annoyed at all the gay people at his gym who kept staring at him in the shower. Finally, Langton would walk into the complainant’s office and attempt to masturbate the beard of the King Tut bust he had in his office, joking that he must like things that were phallic.
Shortly after Ralph Rosato (“Rosato”) took over as Division Chief of the General Litigation Department, Rosato began to transfer his friends from his old division, Dependency. From this point, the harassment of the complainant intensified. Each new lawyer in the division was apprised of the malicious speculations about the complainant’s sexual orientation, and the mocking and ridicule of him in the office continued. Specifically, the complainant was harassed by Langton and Gary Gross (“Gross”), close friends of Rosato.
Alisha Cormier and Michelle Martinez, former litigation secretaries, witnessed frequent harassment and bullying against the complainant in the office. Rosato was always aware of and complicit in this harassment. The harassment intensified around the Prop 8 debate and court ruling opposing it.
In September 2008, the complainant attended a baby shower for McCaverty’s wife held at work. At the baby shower, McCaverty stated to the complainant in front of other lawyers: “Do you want to suck my dick? Can I suck your dick? In a few years now, I’ll be teaching my daughter how to suck dick!” The other lawyers who were standing around the complainant, like Camevale and Anthony Peck, all started to laugh at him.
In October 2008, the complainant did not receive a promotion to “Senior Deputy County Counsel” despite having many years of litigation experience. Instead, other attorneys with less experience attained the promotion, including Richard Kudo.
In April 2009 because of complaints he made at work, he eventually was forced to “come out” to his parents as gay. This was an incredibly difficult topic to address with his Middle Eastern and Muslim parents.
In May 2010, the complainant’s former Jones Day secretary filed a racial harassment lawsuit against Jones Day. The lawsuit mentioned the complainant’s name and his EEOC Complaint.
In June 2010, County Counsel Andrea Ordin and the Board of Supervisors conducted an audit into Jones Day’s legal billings of the County, particularly of MTA. The audit found gross improprieties by Jones Day and County Counsel attorneys.
In March 2011, the complainant was taken off work for one month by his doctor for “occupational work stress” and “depression.” In April 5, 2011, he filed a Workers’ Compensation claim against County Counsel for “psyche” and elaborated that he was subjected to widespread sexual, ethnic and religious harassment and humiliation in the office since his start date on September 15, 2005.
ALLEGED DISCRIMINATION BASED ON NATIONAL ORIGIN, RACE, AND RELIGION
Discrimination based on sexual orientation was not the only unlawful treatment of the complainant during his employment at County. On numerous times and occasions, the complainant was also discriminated against based on his national origin (Egyptian), race (Middle Eastern), and religion (Muslim). Below are some of the events that clearly establish discriminatory animus against the complainant’s protected traits of national origin, race, and religion.
Granbo always held a racial and religious animus towards the complainant for having filed an EEOC complaint against his white colleagues at Jones Day in 2003. Granbo openly portrayed the complainant as “anti-American” and “uppity” within the office because of his EEOC complaint. In fact, Granbo would openly refer to a County Counsel attorney of Iranian and Muslim ancestry, as a “terrorist” in front of other lawyers. Granbo would also refer to the complainant as a “terrorist” to others in the office. Granbo also continually mocked him to County Counsel lawyers, outside counsel, and staff persons about his race because he had stated in his EEOC complaint that he was “African American.” Granbo is aware that the complainant is not “white” but persisted to mock and ridicule him in the office because of his racial self-identification as African-American. Granbo also conveyed to numerous people in the office and to outside counsel that he was only admitted to Harvard and Harvard Law School because he claimed to be “African American.”
Granbo also spread malicious gossip about the complainant throughout the office regarding his supposed objection to “usury and divorce.” Granbo took bits and pieces of a conversation that purportedly occurred at Jones Day ten years earlier about England’s King Henry VIII, and used it to defame him in the office as a “religious zealot” and “Muslim fundamentalist.” Granbo and his allies in the Law Enforcement Division and General Litigation Division (Jonathan McCaverty, Joseph Langton, Jason Carnevale, Dennis Carnevale, Dennis Gonzales, Gary Gross, and Paul Kim) continuously mocked the complainant’s purported religious identification as Muslim because they perceived him to be a homosexual. In fact, at one point in late 2008, Carnevale told him that “everyone here would just love you if you converted to Christianity.”
In October 2008, the complainant was denied a promotion to Senior Deputy County Counsel as part of a continuing pattern and practice of racial/religious discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination and retaliation against him for filing an EEOC Complaint against County Counsel Management’s friends at Jones Day. Instead, the promotion was offered to less qualified non-Arab and non-Muslim lawyers. Unlike County Counsel lawyers who attended top tier schools, he was not considered for an expedited promotion to Senior Deputy.
HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT ALLEGATIONS
The complainant was subjected to unwanted harassing conduct because of the widespread discrimination at County Counsel based on his sexual orientation, race, national origin, and religion. The foregoing discriminatory and harassing conduct was severe and pervasive such that a reasonable gay, Middle Eastern, Egyptian, or Muslim person in the complainant’s circumstances would have considered the work environment to be hostile or abusive. The complainant in fact did consider the work environment to be hostile or abusive. As indicated, the complainant’s supervisors engaged in the harassing conduct and/or knew or should have known of the conduct and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. As a result, the complainant was harmed. Further, the conduct was a substantial factor in causing the complainant’s harm.
In March 2009, the complainant made a verbal complaint to his supervisor, Ralph Rosato, about the sexual harassment and other taunting against him in the office. Rosato immediately sent him to HR to file a complaint, which he did. The complainant alleged discrimination and harassment based on race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and sexuality. After filing an internal complaint with County’s HR, he also wrote a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. In his letter, he stated that County Counsel’s largest outside counsel, Jones Day, did not hire, train nor promote non-white attorneys, and that County should be precluded under civil rights laws from doing business with such an entity. He also explained that he was continually being harassed at County Counsel based on false, defamatory, and humiliating statements conveyed by Jones Day about him. The complainant ultimately met with Alisa Katz, Chief Deputy to Supervisor Yaroslavsky, and shared his concerns with her. In June 2009, the complainant received written notification from the Office of Affirmative Action Compliance that an investigation of his complaint revealed a violation of County policy.
In July 2009, Rosato met with the complainant and convinced him to cancel his mediation with the Office of Affirmative Action Compliance in order to “make things easier on everyone.” After the complainant emailed the Affirmative Action Office to cancel the mediation, he immediately forwarded a copy of the email to Rosato to confirm that he had done what they agreed to. The complainant canceled the mediation in hopes of avoiding future retaliation. Soon after the complainant filed his sexual harassment claim in 2009, several women in the Probate Department made similar sexual harassment allegations against Assistant County Counsel Richard Townsend, which caused him to be removed from his position. County Counsel Management has also sought to retaliate against the complainant for the removal of Townsend from his position.
Between August and December 2009, other lawyers in the office stopped speaking to the complainant. The office mentors refused to give him substantive assignments. Rosato began to complain, for the first time ever, that he was “coming in late.” Rosato and Steve Estabrook (“Estabrook”), Litigation Cost Manager, then began coming to him with trumped-up accusations about his work product. Rosato and Estabrook had never spoken to him about work product before. In fact, he had complained that he wasn’t being trained like the other attorneys. the complainant verbally complained to Rosato in November 2009 that he was retaliating against him.
Immediately after the complainant filed his internal complaint and sent his letter to the Board in March 2009, Jason Carnevale told him, “County Counsel Management wants you to quit.” Carnevale also told the complainant: “You should try to find a new job from one of your Harvard friends.” Carnevale was communicating statements to the complainant that were made by his County Counsel Managers, including his father, Steve Carnevale. Even Brian Chu made comments to him such as: “If you have friends in the Hamptons, go get a job from them.”
In June through September 2010, various attorneys and staff persons approached the complainant and told him that the management “wants you to quit” and “wants you out of the Hall of Administration.”
In September 2010, County hired two new first year attorneys in the complainant’s division. He complained to Brian Chu, supervisor under Rosato, that the new attorneys were being assigned more complex cases and were being trained, whereas he was not.
In October 2010, Leela Kapur sent an email to County Counsel attorneys advertising a position with the Government Services Division for an attorney interested in litigation, bankruptcy and tax. Since this is what he had been doing in General Litigation, and offered him career growth opportunities, he expressed an interest in the position. In January 2011, the assignment was given instead to Paul Kim, also from his department; even though Paul had no experience in, nor had he expressed an interest in, the assignment. Until his leave of absence in March 2011, he was directed to train Paul Kim in his old bankruptcy and tax assignment.
In January 17, 2011, the complainant was called into a meeting with Patrick Wu, Sr. Asst. County Counsel (over litigation), and Ralph Rosato, wherein he was told that he was chosen for a transfer to Workers’ Compensation. Although two other lawyers were transferred out of the division with him, he was the only one who was no longer assigned to litigation, the only one who was asked to leave the building, and the only one who was not allowed to take his computer with him to the new assignment. In addition, while he was transferred to his new division on January 31, 2011, the other attorneys were all transferred to their new assignments on February 7, 2011. Finally, the three lawyers who replaced his co-workers and he, all came from the MTA Division. They had been transferred out of MTA because of the improprieties occurring at MTA, which his letter to the Board helped to illuminate.
In March 2011, Bill Sias, another County lawyer in the off-site World trade Center location, told the complainant: “[You have] burned all your bridges at County Counsel.” Later that week, the complainant’s new Division Chief, Leah Davis, saw him speaking with Mr. Sias, and told him to stop speaking to him because Sias was “trouble.” Later, Leah Davis told him that it didn’t matter in Workers’ Comp. that he went to Harvard, and that “even a trained monkey can do this job.”
SEPTEMBER 2011 MEDIATION
On or about March 15, 2011, the complainant filed a complaint of employment discrimination with the Los Angeles County Office of Affirmative Action Compliance (“OAAC”) in which he alleged discrimination because of his race, religion, sexual orientation/sexuality, and retaliation by Los Angeles County Department of County Counsel employees Leela Kapur, Patrick Wu, Roger Granbo, and Ralph Rosato. On September 13, 2011, the complainant entered into a “No-Fault Settlement Agreement” with County following mediation between the parties.
Pursuant to the Agreement, the complainant agreed that he “will not institute or cause to be instituted any action in state or federal court, or before any state, local or federal government entity arising from or attributable to any alleged unlawful practice of the Respondent, its officers, agents or employees arising from or attributable to [the complainant’s OAAC Complaint].” The agreement also specifically provided that “In exchange for the promises of…[the complainant] contained in the Agreement, County agreed to: “Designate John Krattli, Senior Assistant County Counsel, to serve as a point of contact for [the complainant] in connection with any and all employment related issues and concerns…” Moreover, County agreed “that there shall be no discrimination or retaliation in violation of Title VII of the (Federal) Civil Rights Act of 1964, the (State) Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), and/or County of Los Angeles Policy of Equity, against the Complainant, or any other person, because of the above referenced complaint, or actions relating to those complaints, or this settlement.”
As explained herein, County discriminated and retaliated against the complainant following the mediation and signing of the No-Fault Settlement Agreement, and thereby materially breached the agreement. County further breached the agreement by failing to designate John Krattli (“Krattli”) to serve as a point of contact for the complainant in connection with any and all employment related issues and concerns. Although the complainant did in fact contact Krattli, on each of these occasions Krattli never “serve(d) as a point of contact” for the complainant’s concerns, and either refused to be available to him or led the complainant to believe that he was unable to do anything about his employment concerns. In September 2012, the complainant met with Krattli, and made a complaint about not being promoted, and explained that he was suffering from “self- loathing” because of the “degrading” treatment he was experiencing at work. In response, Krattli simply repeated, “I’m sorry you feel that way” and made no attempt to resolve his concerns. Krattli explained that promotion decisions are based on his supervisor’s evaluation and that he would have to wait for the next round of promotions, and repeatedly told him he had no control over his assignments or working conditions.
On or about January 2013, the complainant requested another meeting with Krattli but was sent instead to Elizabeth Cortez. On or about June 2013, the complainant had a second meeting with Krattli and Chief Deputy County Counsel Richard Weiss. He shared his concerns about being excluded from employment in the Hall of Administration; the September 2012 promotion of McCaverty to Senior Deputy County Counsel and the failure to promote the complainant to Senior Deputy County Counsel; and the Office’s continual efforts to retaliate against him despite his unprecedented performance in the Dependency Appeals Section over the prior eighteen months.
During that meeting, Krattli did nothing to address his complaints of discrimination, and instead asked the complainant questions that were completely irrelevant to his complaints, such as asking whether he thought Senior Assistant County Counsel Elizabeth Cortez was a “token.” Similarly, Weiss asked the complainant whether he thought Senior Deputy County Counsel Parjack Ghaderi was “subservient.”
MENTAL DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ALLEGATIONS
Despite executing a Mediation Agreement on September 13, 2011, the complainant continued to experience varying forms of discrimination and retaliation thereafter.
1. Alleged Retaliation Against the Complainant Intensified the Severity of his Mental Disability
After executing the Mediation Agreement on September 13, 2011, the complainant was progressively forced into isolation as part of an attempt to force him out of his employment at County. Various attorneys in the office began to approach the complainant to tell him that management wanted him to quit. Specifically, Byron Shibata told the complainant “this job is about power, and you can’t stay after you make a complaint.” Mr. Birnie also strongly encouraged the complainant to quit and explained that he would never be promoted again. As a result, the complainant began to habitually eat lunch alone in the cafeteria. In February 2012, Douglas Hunter (“Hunter”) openly suggested to the complainant that he quit his job and try to work for County Counsel in San Diego because he had angered management by making his complaints.
From February through August 2012, the complainant began to receive published cases. the complainant consistently demonstrated his capacity and enthusiasm for his work. For example, the complainant attained four published opinions in the matter of only 18 months, two of which were published by the California Supreme Court. He was also well liked and praised by his co-workers. For example, Melinda White-Svec (“White-Svec”), one of the complainant’s co-workers, stated that she “found him to always be professional, dress professional, be kind, smiling, willing to help and willing to ask for help.” White-Svec also stated that the complainant was “a very fine writer” and would often ask her to review his cases “before taking them to his ‘assigned’ review, just to see if [she] saw anything glaring out of place, he was so conscientious [sic] about his
Despite his impressive accomplishments and dedication to his work, the complainant continued to receive performance reviews that merely suggested his work was “satisfactory.” It was clear from this that the performance reviews filled out by the complainant’s supervisors were not based on an objective or unbiased criteria. Rather, the performance reviews were used by his supervisors as a means of discrimination and retaliation. In September of 2012, McCaverty was promoted to Senior Deputy County Counsel. the complainant arranged a meeting with Krattli and explained his frustration that McCaverty was promoted despite all of the heinous and discriminatory acts McCaverty had engaged in against the complainant in the past. Krattli responded to the complainant by explaining that “promotions are based on your performance evaluations as written by your supervisor,” and ignored the complainant’s concerns about his supervisors’ use of performance evaluations to undermine the complainant in a discriminatory and retaliatory fashion.
In October 2012, Kristine Miles (“Miles”) began to carefully scrutinize and complain about every aspect of the complainant’s work. For example, Miles told the complainant that she noticed major mistakes in a brief he had written and told him to re-write it. Although the complainant had no problem with doing the work, the issue was that Miles was not responsible for nor had she ever been responsible for reviewing briefs. It is clear that Miles exceeded the scope of her job duties in a blatant attempt to undermine the complainant in retaliation for his persistent complaints against County. In January of 2012, the complainant received notice that his second published case was being taken up for review with the California Supreme Court. Even though the complainant expressed his desire to handle the case himself, Miles assigned the case to Dale Thetford (“Thetford”) purportedly because of its complexity. the complainant was dumbfounded by Miles’ decision to assign the case to Thetford because Thetford had never worked on a Supreme Court case before either. It was apparent to the complainant that Miles merely wanted to discredit him for his work and undermine his accomplishments.
In April of 2013, the complainant had an oral argument for one of his published cases in the California Supreme Court. Despite the fact that this argument was a huge success and Owens had even notified office management of the complainant’s stellar performance, the complainant was nonetheless denied the opportunity to argue his second Supreme Court brief that was previously assigned to Thetford. When the complainant requested to speak with Krattli again, Krattli told him he was busy and directed him to speak with Elizabeth Cortez (“Cortez”) instead. As detailed above, the complainant was ignored by Krattli in direct violation of the mediation agreement which appointed Krattli as the complainant’s point of contact for “any and all employment related issues and concerns.”
Cortez merely accused the complainant of having a problem dealing with women when the complainant tried to express his concerns about the unfair treatment he was being subjected to by Miles. In June 2013, after making several attempts to meet with Krattli, the complainant was finally able to schedule a meeting with Krattli and Rick Weiss. The complainant once again attempted to explain his concerns that Miles was retaliating against him and singling him out because of his complaints. Throughout this meeting, Krattli merely accused the complainant of making disparaging remarks about his co-workers and failed to assist the complainant reach any sort of amicable resolution. As a result, the complainant left this meeting even more frustrated than before.
In August 2013, the complainant received another performance evaluation from Miles, which expressed concern with his work quality and intelligence. It was obvious to the complainant that this was yet another attempt by management to discourage him and downplay his professional accomplishments. On August 16, 2013, the complainant emailed a member of HR seeking permission to send out a companywide email detailing the discrimination, harassment, and retaliation he had endured in the past 8 years. The complainant explained that he felt he was entitled to do so because his supervisors had already revealed selective portions of his complaints to other County lawyers. However, the complainant did not receive a response and once again felt helpless and isolated as a result.
From September to December 2013, the complainant made several requests to change section assignments, explaining that he felt isolated and confined to secretarial duties in the Warrants Section. The complainant was told that he would be added to a transfer list. During this period of time, County continued to transfer around other lawyers, but would not transfer the complainant. The complainant was once again left to feel isolated and unappreciated to County.
2. Alleged Discrimination Because of his Religion
The complainant has reason to believe that he was discriminated based on his religion (Muslim) because throughout his employment with County, the only minorities who were hired, trained and promoted were Catholic. When the complainant sent out an office wide email about racism in the legal profession, in which he cited articles from Chicago Lawyer Magazine and the Stanford Law Review, Rick Weiss immediately sent out a responsive email reminder on email policy usage.
Rather than directly meeting with the complainant to address his concerns and attempt to seek an amicable resolution, County merely admonished the complainant for voicing his complaints and continued to isolate him and ignore his obvious cry for help. Furthermore, the complainant complained about not being trained and promoted like other White Catholic lawyers of his aptitude level, repeatedly being given insignificant and unimportant assignments compared to White Catholic lawyers, and being socially secluded whenever he voiced these concerns.
3. Alleged Discrimination Because of his Sexual Orientation
In or around February or March 2014, the complainant sent a written complaint to Peggy Hodge explaining that the two men hired by County who were either gay or perceived to be gay had been pushed out the General Litigation Division as a result of a series of bad reviews and repeated inquiries about their sexual orientations. The complainant indicated that Krattli was aware of the discrimination but allowed it to persist and that County was liable for punitive damages as a result. The day after the complainant sent Hodge this written complaint, Krattli sent out a company-wide email reminding lawyers that County is not liable for punitive damages. It is apparent that Krattli was notified of the complainant’s written complaint based on his email about punitive damages.
However, Krattli failed once again to schedule a meeting pursuant to the 2011 mediation settlement with the complainant in order to allow him to air out his grievances in the proper forum and attempt to reconcile his concerns about discrimination in the workplace.
4. Alleged Discrimination Because of his Mental Disability
In September of 2012, the complainant met with his assigned Appeals mentor, Kim Nemoy (“Nemoy”), to express his concerns and frustration with the discriminatory and retaliatory acts he was experiencing. After Nemoy relayed the complainant’s complaints to Kristine Miles (“Miles”) and James Owens (“Owens”), the complainant was called into Mr. Owen’s office for a meeting. During this meeting, Miles and Owens asked the complainant whether he wanted to contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which is an informal counseling program used to assist employees who are dealing with personal issues that are affecting them at work. It is apparent that County was aware of the complainant’s mental disability since they advised him to contact EAP to address his psychological well-being.
In January 2012, the complainant sent an email to HR explaining that Miles was revealing confidential medical information to his co-workers. It follows that from this that HR, Miles, and some of the complainant’s co-workers had notice of his diagnosis for depression, anxiety and workplace induced stress based on the fact that Miles had unlawfully disclosed the complainant’s confidential medical information to others.
On May 9, 2014, the complainant sent an inappropriate email to all employees of County Counsel. As a result, the complainant was sent home and placed on an ordered absence pending the outcome of an administrative investigation, Skelly process, and County Counsel’s final decision with regard to the Letter of Intent to Discharge from County service.
On November 10, 2014, County hand-delivered a Notice of Discharge notifying the complainant that he was being discharged from his permanent position of Deputy County Counsel and from County service, effective November 12, 2014. From May 9 through November 12, 2014, the complainant produced numerous documents to County Counsel and explained that his irrational outburst and inappropriate email was a product of his mental disability as well as County’s repeated failure to accommodate him. Despite having knowledge of the complainant’s mental disability, County failed to engage in communication with the complainant in order to quell his obvious signs of mental distress. Instead of making an effort to reasonably accommodate the complainant’s mental disability in the workplace, County terminated his employment on November 12, 2014.
This is a report on a complaint filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The details in this report come from an original complaint. Please note that a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt, and it represents only one side of the story.