LOS ANGELES – A black investigator for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is suing her employer, alleging she has been the victim of harassment and discrimination in the workplace, some of which she attributes to male managers she described as a “good old boys club.”
Sgt. Karen Pewitt named Los Angeles County, District Attorney Jackie Lacey and about a dozen male and female Bureau of Investigation supervisors as defendants. The allegations in her complaint filed April 28 include hostile work environment harassment and widespread sexual favoritism.
The Bureau of Investigation operated like a “(good old) boys club” in which it was stressed that employees would be team players and that one is a “problem” if he or she reports misconduct, sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation or other abuses in the workplace, the suit alleges.
Pewitt seeks unspecified damages.
A representative for the District Attorney’s Office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Pewitt was hired into the Bureau of Investigation in February 1999 and during her time on the job, she has taken part in administrative hearings and provided input regarding lawsuits brought by office employees, as well as defendants in criminal cases, the suit states.
She worked without any problems for the first 10 years, but by 2009, she detected “an environment with workplace hostility, tension, degradation of and disrespect towards women,” the suit states.
That year, Pewitt obtained a video depicting fictitious law enforcement male and female officers who believed they had won the lottery, the suit states. Some of the white women yell and disparage their boss with a pejorative term for gay people, the suit states.
She was alarmed the email went viral and that no one was held accountable, according to her suit.
Pewitt was groped and inappropriately touched by another bureau employee during a work-related event in 2012, the suit states, leaving her “shocked and stunned” by behavior she deemed “unwelcome and offensive.”
In another assignment in which she processed black candidates for Social Security Administration work, Pewitt detected that a manager disfavored black females, the suit states.
“Over the years, she hears complaints about his discriminatory practices in the workplace,” the suit states. “She is told that white males are overheard stating, `We’re going to take this bureau back.”‘
Other black employees later complained to her that management was “indifferent” toward them, according to the suit. But Pewitt found that she worked in “a hostile work environment where harassment, discrimination and retaliation against women and against complainers” occurred, the suit states.
Pewitt received no support from management and was instead criticized for her job performance, denigrated and disrespected, the suit states. Her complaints about the work environment were ignored and she was “subjected to multiple adverse employment actions,” the suit states.
In September 2018, she received a memo reprimanding her and accusing her of “not performing her supervisory duties in a satisfactory manner, which has caused a disruption.” the suit states.
“This (was) in direct retaliation for her complaints about harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace,” the suit alleges.
The bureau uses bullying and “cult-like brainwashing: to conrol, shut down, intimidate and muzzle personnel,” the suit alleges.
Pewitt remains with the bureau despite the “adversity and hostility of the upper management, dominated by Caucasian males, that has been inflicted upon her,” the suit states.