LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Los Angeles police sergeant, responding to a motion by the City Attorney's Office seeking dismissal of the sergeant's lawsuit, says he deserves a trial of his case alleging he was prohibited from speaking Spanish in his role as a media spokesman for the LAPD, where he says his work conditions have worsened.
“Since my lawsuit was filed, I have been the repeated target of further retaliation by the department,'' Sgt. Frank Preciado says in a sworn declaration opposing the city's motion to toss his case, scheduled for hearing March 17 before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney.
Just three months ago, a sergeant from Internal Affairs told Preciado that he was the subject of an anonymous complaint with four allegations of misconduct, according to the sergeant.
“I was just interviewed a few weeks ago, but this is how the department works to retaliate against someone who voices their displeasure about the mistreatment one experiences under the managerial supervision of Los Angeles Police Department,'' Preciado says.
In his suit filed in April 2019, Preciado, who continues to work in the department's media relations unit, alleges that his superiors ordered him not to speak Spanish in the workplace and that Spanish television newscasts were turned off in the media office.
The 24-year department veteran alleges that when he complained, he faced a backlash in the form of a loss of job duties and his official vehicle. Preciado's tasks included interacting with Spanish-language media channels, but in his suit he maintains he cannot speak Spanish to those outlets during phone calls or at news conferences.
“Having access to Spanish television broadcasts at Media Relations Division has always been and remains necessary for my job because I give statements and interviews to Spanish speaking news media,'' Preciado says. “Some events are only covered on Spanish speaking networks.''
In court papers filed last April, lawyers for the City Attorney's Office maintain Preciado's case should be tossed because he was not demoted and cannot prove he was harassed.
“Perhaps the most egregious part of (Preciado's) lawsuit is the conduct that he complains of, which he contends occurred as the result of discrimination, retaliation and harassment,'' the city's court papers state. “For example, he whines at length about the fact that his take-home vehicle was taken way, despite the fact that he was never authorized to have a take-home car.''
According to the lawsuit, the first restriction occurred March 2017, when Capt. Patricia Sandoval ordered all Spanish-language television newscasts to be turned off in the media center. When Preciado complained, he faced retaliation, he alleges.
The city disputes those claims, stating in their court papers that “examining the undisputed facts, it is clear that he has suffered no material changes to his employment. His salary and benefits all remain exactly the same and he has stayed working in his preferred position.''
Preciado says Sandoval removed his car privilege.
`In September 2018, Capt. Sandoval ordered me to relinquish the department-owned vehicle that I had been authorized to use for more than 10 years without issue,'' Preciado says. “I had been told I had authority to use the car by numerous supervisors throughout my tenure at Media Relations Division. I used the car, as did the other PIOs, in the course of my duties when I responded to critical incidents.''
After Sandoval's cancellation of Preciado's car privilege, he was forced to respond on several critical incidents in his own vehicle that has no marking or lighting similar to police vehicles, which compromised his safety, the sergeant says.
Preciado also alleges he was stripped of his role as a public information officer, but the city maintains in its court papers that he only served in that role in an acting capacity.
“Moreover, he readily admits that the percentage of his PIO work has remained unchanged from 2016-20,'' the city's court papers state.
Preciado had problems with Sandoval after she became his captain and “felt she was a woman on a power trip'' and was “adversarial,'' according to the city's court papers.
Preciado alleges that Sandoval and civilian director Josh Rubenstein announced in March 2017 that no media center televisions would show Spanish telecasts, but reversed course eight days later after the plaintiff complained that it interfered with his ability to do his job, according to the city's court papers.
Preciado admits he was never told by any boss that he should not give interviews in Spanish, nor was he ever reprimanded for giving interviews in Spanish, the city's court papers state. “In fact, his performance review signed by Capt. Sandoval specifically highlights his Spanish work as part of his duties and praises him for it.''
Preciado concedes that his current situation has vastly improved with a captain who replaced Sandoval after she left the media division, the city's court papers state.
But Preciado says otherwise and that he believes that he will “always be a target'' as long as he is with the LAPD.
“My physical and mental health have deteriorated as a result of Capt. Sandoval's and Director Rubenstein's treatment,'' Preciado says. “I have been suffering from severe migraines, insomnia and mental anxiety brought on by stress.''
Preciado said he had planned to work for the LAPD for at least 28 years and five additional years in an early retirement option program.
“Now, I'll be forced to take a different retirement path to escape stress from the constant discrimination and retaliation,'' Preciado says.
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