LAPD Sued By One of Its Own Over a Language Barrier

preciado lawsuit

The language is Spanish…the barrier is a ban on speaking it!

A longtime spokesperson says he and others were told to quit speaking Spanish in the public information office. Sergeant Frank Preciado has been with the LAPD’s Media Relations Unit for years and has been a regular liaison between the department and the Spanish-speaking media.

Preciado has filed a discrimination lawsuit under the Federal Employment and Housing Act. Preciado claims management fostered a racially hostile work environment.

According to the suit:

On March 14, 2017, Preciado was present at a supervisors’ meeting when Director of Media Relations, and former KCAL-TV weathercaster, Josh Rubenstein, along with LAPD Captain Patricia Sandoval, first announced that all television broadcasts in Spanish needed to be turned off. (Much like the KFI Newsroom, a number of televisions are mounted on the wall to monitor breaking news).
Preciado says he complained that this action was discriminatory censorship and that by turning the Spanish language televisions off, he could no longer be informed of breaking news that was only covered in Spanish and could not respond properly to inquiries from Spanish-speaking reporters. Preciado had been successfully performing his duties with the Spanish television turned on for 10 years prior to this order.When Preciado challenged both Rubenstein and Sandoval as to the reason for their decision, Preciado says neither could provide any reason for this sudden change.
Then, on March 21, 2017, Preciado again complained to Director Rubenstein of the discriminatory censorship of Spanish television which was not justified and was causing Preciado difficulty in performing his job duties. Rubenstein responded that he wanted the televisions off, but again could not provide any reason. Rubenstein's continued failure to provide any legitimate business reason for the decision despite Plaintiffs complaint that this was discriminatory censorship confirmed Rubenstein's animus because of Plaintiffs Hispanic ethnicity/race/ancestry/national origin.

The city of Los Angeles says it can’t comment on pending litigation though some sources in the department have told me there have been issues and tension for some time in the public information office.

Full disclosure: I know Frank Preciado and because of my role as a reporter, and a board member of the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California (RTNA), I have worked with him in various capacities. In fact, it was the RTNA that worked hard years ago to get both the LAPD and the LASD to bring in more Spanish-speaking spokespeople to the respective public information offices so the Spanish-language media were being briefed in their native language at the same time the rest of us English-speaking outlets were being briefed.

I spoke to Preciado’s attorney, Doug Winter. Winter tells me this is such an unusual case because Preciado’s job requires him to speak, read and write in Spanish but the very office that counts on his language skills forbids him to do so. Winter, who has repped many cops in various employment cases, says Preciado has also suffered medical issues because of the undo stress and pressure, and because Preciado always did what he was told to do, unconditionally. But, eventually, Winter says, Preciado had reached his limit.

You can read the full complaint here:

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