A judge has dismissed the remaining two claims in a lawsuit filed by a longtime Los Angeles County prosecutor who sued the county, alleging she was repeatedly harassed and denied promotions by individuals within the office she believed were trying to destroy her career.
Deputy District Attorney Linda Baek‘s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit originally alleged six claims, including gender and disability discrimination, retaliation, and failure to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation. The latter claim as well as one for retaliation for reporting discrimination and harassment were dismissed Monday, Nov. 27, by Judge Douglas Stern, who heard arguments on those two causes of action on Oct. 13 and took the case under submission.
The other four allegations were dropped by Baek before the October hearing. In their court papers in favor of judgment in favor of the county, defense attorneys sharply attacked Baek’s allegations.
“Her case is premised in its entirety around a wild conspiracy theory that a variety of innocuous workplace occurrences since 2014 were discriminatory and retaliatory and part of an elaborate cover-up scheme perpetrated by at least 14 different individuals,” the county lawyers maintained in their court papers.
Baek has never been disciplined, demoted, suspended or fired, yet she views benign workplace incidents as mistreatment or adverse employment actions, the county attorneys state. According to the suit, Baek was hopeful for positive changes with the election of District Attorney George Gascón, but “the same actors in the … Human Resource Departments of the county and the District Attorney’s Office have continued the pattern of retaliation, which has effectively destroyed Ms. Baek’s once-promising career.”
From Baek’s 1995 hiring until 2014, she was on a positive career track, receiving favorable assignments and promotions, the suit states. She served for a time in the five-lawyer hate crimes unit along with future District Attorney Jackie Lacey, according to the lawsuit. In 2014, Baek met Bob Knapp, a retired Los Angeles Police Department officer referred to by some as an “institution” who was working as a juvenile case hearing officer in the district attorney’s Long Beach branch, according to the suit.
“In her first meeting with Mr. Knapp, Ms. Baek found him strange, particularly when he said, ‘I love you, Linda’ after having just met her,” the suit stated. In a subsequent encounter in Baek’s office, Knapp allegedly put his hand on her back and started groping at her bra strap before “she then threw him out of the office.”
When Baek complained to a supervisor, the boss “minimized her claims and did nothing,” the suit stated. The supervisor’s alleged failure to do anything about Knapp’s conduct “began a continuing pattern of suppression and retaliation that has essentially destroyed Ms. Baek’s career with the District Attorney’s office, and which continues to date,” the suit states.
After Baek returned in August 2015 from a year-long family leave to deal with her daughter’s medical condition, she was demoted to handling preliminary hearings, an assignment normally given to new lawyers in the office, the suit states. Baek later moved to the post-conviction and discovery unit headed by Deputy District Attorney Brian Schirn.
“It soon became clear, however, that this was actually a choreographed move to further destroy her career and hold her hostage under Schirn’s abusive thumb,” the suit stated.
Schirn enjoyed a uniquely powerful spot in the Lacey administration position because he was a close friend with Joey Esposito, Lacey’s second-in- command, the suit stated. Schirn “considered himself untouchable and often bragged about how he manipulated the careers of others to suit his needs,” according to the suit. “It quickly became clear that Ms. Baek was sent to Schirn to have her career killed.”
Baek filed complaints about her treatment and additional complaints were filed by others on her behalf, but each of them were “suppressed” without any investigation, the suit stated.
An overarching issue in this case was an alleged widespread practice within the District Attorney office of a “shadow record” following an employee through his or her tenure in which despite a sterling reputation on paper, informally they are negatively reviewed to the detriment of their career advancement, Baek’s court papers stated.