LOS ANGELE – A Los Angeles Police Department sergeant who alleged he was wrongfully prohibited from speaking Spanish in his role as a media spokesman has tentatively settled the lawsuit he filed against the city for discrimination, retaliation and harassment.
Lawyers for plaintiff Sgt. Frank Preciado filed court papers on Wednesday with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney stating that a “conditional” settlement was reached and that a request for dismissal of the case will be filed by Jan. 6. No terms were divulged and it was not immediately clear if the settlement is subject to approval by the City Council.
In his suit filed in April 2019, Preciado, while working in the department’s media relations unit, alleged that his superiors ordered him not to speak Spanish in the workplace and ordered that Spanish television newscasts be turned off in the media office.
The 25-year department veteran further alleged that when he complained, he faced retaliation 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 maintained he could not speak Spanish to those outlets during phone calls or at news conferences.
The city argued in a 2021 motion that the case should be dismissed because Preciado was not demoted and could not 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 stated. “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 in 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 a backlash, he alleged.
The city disputed 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 also alleged that he was stripped of his role as a public information officer, but the city maintained 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 stated.
After Sandoval became Preciado’s captain, he believed she was “adversarial” and “a woman on a power trip,” according to the city’s court papers.
Preciado admitted that 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 stated.
But Preciado maintained in a sworn declaration that his physical and mental health have deteriorated as a result of his treatment.
“I have been suffering from severe migraines, insomnia and mental anxiety brought on by stress,” Preciado said.
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 said.
First off we must consider there may be underlying dynamics not at first obvious .
What are the chances this is more about a male officer with Spanish language skills and a Spanish surname has a hard time with the idea He has to report to female superior also with a Spanish surname and perhaps Spanish language skills, who may be less tolerant of what a prior non-Hispanic superior felt uncomfortable addressing due to potential claims of discrimination. She may have said “enough already – don’t think you can get away with things you shouldn’t because we have shared ethnic roots” no extra perks, no more assuming your Spanish language calls are all business calls. Could this be a “SHE can’t tell me what to do thing”.?
Do all other officers with similar public information officer assignments receive a “take home car” ? How many take home cars are there in the department?
As for “not speaking Spanish in the workplace” -to do so in the workplace among Spanish speaking officers when other non-Spanish speaking officers are present is simply rude and inconsiderate. It is sometimes very easy to accidentally slip from Spanglish to Spanish, which in and of itself may not be intentionally attempting to exclude English only officers, but in fact it does…. However speaking to Spanish Language “media” when one will be quoted in a newcast or publication specifically targeting a Spanish speaking audience is a different situation and is necessary.
Consider for example how foolish it is when someone spouting inclusion at a public meetings in English tells those who do not speak English that translation equipment is available near a specific doorway.
As for the televisions -what is their purpose ? Let us hope not so officers’ can catch up on their favorite cartoon, soap opera, game show, or sports programs. Viewing options on those sets should be restricted to news programming including the multiple coverage options in the many languages reporting on police involved situations.
Let’s hope LAPD PolIcy and Practice takes into account the many ethnic groups and treats all employees of both genders as well as the citizens they interact with, with respect, truthfulness, and accountability.