Los Angeles

Councilman Seeks Dismissal of Part of Former Staffer's Case Against Him

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Jose Huizar maintains in new court papers that the remaining claim against the Los Angeles city councilman in a lawsuit filed against him by a former office manager should not go to trial because he never harassed her over her migraine headaches or her absenteeism, according to court papers obtained Tuesday.

Huizar is asking Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ruth Kwan to dismiss Pauline Medina's cause of action for harassment based on disability or medical condition as well as her claim for punitive damages, saying there is no evidence the councilman ever acted with malice, oppression or fraud toward Medina.

Medina, 47, alleges in her lawsuit filed in October 2018 against the city of Los Angeles and Huizar that he used city funds to pay for his personal expenses and gave preferential treatment to another staffer with whom he was having an extramarital affair. She maintains she suffered a backlash when Huizar and his chief of staff, Paul Habib, made working there so intolerable that she quit in July 2018.

Medina further alleges that from the beginning, she “was often the sounding board for other staffers who came to her with their own frustrations about the office's practices,'' and that Huizar was “challenging to work for'' and would chastise her and other office members for mistakes and oversights.

She alleges she was required to enforce a new attendance policy the office began that frustrated her and her colleagues, ultimately causing her extreme anxiety as well as migraine headaches.

Over time, the lawsuit has been pared and Medina has dropped one of her two retaliation claims as well as her wrongful termination cause of action, both of which were against the city only. She also dropped her claim against Huizar for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

According to Huizar's court papers, Medina “by virtue  of  her  own admissions'' has no viable harassment claim against the councilman. She could not identify any disability harassment by Huizar after being asked to do so four to five times in a deposition, his court papers state.

Questioned whether she ever talked to Huizar m about her migraines or if he made any comments to her about her headaches, Medina each time answered, “No,'', according to Huizar's court papers.

Huizar's court papers further show that Medina began taking time off after claiming she was suffering from migraines and that she called in sick 162 times.

In February 2018, Medina and Habib met to discuss her attendance, according to Huizar's court papers.

“Habib informed (Medina) that her attendance records were audited and that there were discrepancies,'' according to Huizar's court papers. “In some instances, (Medina) did not mark herself out as sick when completing her time sheets and then submitted them to payroll.''

After the meeting with Habib, Medina alleged she had a panic attack, left work early to see her doctor and later that day went on a medical leave due to her migraines, according to Huizar's court papers.

Asked in her deposition if Huizar ever said anything to him about her absenteeism, Medina replied, ''No,'' according to the councilman's court papers.

Medina's own words make the case for dismissal of her punitive damages claim, according to Huizar's court papers.

“(Medina) admits that Huizar never made any negative  or  disparaging comments to her about any medical condition or her absenteeism,'' Huizar's court papers state.

Medina also acknowledged she had a “professional and casual relationship with Huizar,'' the councilman's court papers state.

A hearing on Huizar's dismissal motion is scheduled Sept. 22. The City Attorney's Office has not filed a motion to dismiss the remaining claims against the city.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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