Female CHP Lieutenant's Gender Discrimination Suit Headed to Trial

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A veteran California Highway Patrol lieutenant commander who sued the department and the state of California, alleging she was denied promotions for which she had superior qualifications because she is a woman, can take her case to trial, a judge has ruled.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick issued her ruling Friday in Lt. Laura Hill's gender discrimination case. The judge heard arguments Feb. 14 in a defense motion to dismiss the case and took the case under submission.

``The court finds that (Hill) establishes a triable issue of material fact regarding denying plaintiff a promotion and the reasons behind selecting male candidates over plaintiff for the positions at issue,'' the judge wrote. Bowick also noted that during a meeting with a male CHP chief in November 2019 in which she sought feedback on how to get promoted, the chief allegedly asked the divorced plaintiff, ``How can you be available as a commander as a single mom?''

 However, the judge also found that the Attorney General's Office had produced ``admissible evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue of fact and to justify a judgment for defendant that its selection of the other candidates was based on legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons.'' In their court papers, lawyers for the Attorney General's Office denied Hill's claim.

``(Hill) was one of many unsuccessful candidates for six captain promotion vacancies,'' the defense attorneys stated in their court papers. ``Even though it is routine for candidates to make six or more attempts before succeeding ... plaintiff concluded that the only possible explanation for why she had not been promoted was gender discrimination.''

Hill graduated from the CHP academy in 2002 and was promoted to sergeant seven years later, then lieutenant in 2015, the suit filed in May 2020 states. Hill has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Cal State Fullerton in 1998, has received several awards and has extensive professional training, the suit states. When Hill filed her suit she was a lieutenant commander at the Castaic Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Facility and she previously served as the lieutenant in the investigation services unit, where she supervised five sergeants and 30 officers, the suit states.

In April 2018, she sought a promotion to captain, scored 15th out of 73 candidates and was the top candidate in Southern Division, encompassing the Los Angeles County area, according to the complaint. In May 2018, she received a call from a chief and an assistant chief, who congratulated her on her placement, the suit states. The chief then asked her where she lived.

After she replied, ``Valencia,'' the chief said, ``Because, you know we take that into consideration when making decisions about these commands,'' the suit states. Hill found the chief's statement ``odd'' because numerous captains do not live close to their jobs and candidates are free to choose whether they are willing to work in a particular area, according to the suit. A month later, Hill interviewed for the captain position in the West Los Angeles area, but the post was given to a male candidate who scored 34 spots lower, the suit states.

In January 2019, she interviewed for a position in West Valley Command. Four months later, the job was granted to a male candidate who scored 26 places lower, her suit contends. In October 2019, Hill interviewed for the job of Central Los Angeles Command, but the job went to a male candidate who placed 35 spots below her, according to the suit. During a conversation with a chief, he asked her, ``How can you be available as a commander as a single mom?'' the suit states.

She replied that she already was on call in her current position and had arrangements for her daughter should the need arise, the suit states. Hill was eventually chosen in 2019 for the lieutenant commander job in Castaic, a small station that does not have a captain and is tasked with weighing trucks. She was passed over for other more coveted promotions in 2019 and this year, the suit states.

Based on the chief's remarks about her status as a single mother and on other comments he made, Hill ``realized (the CHP's) motivations for not promoting her were based on her gender, '' according to the suit. Trial of Hill's case is scheduled June 20.

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