Grobeson v. City of Los Angeles
Mitchell Grobeson was the first openly gay officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. In 1993, Grobeson settled a sexual orientation employment discrimination lawsuit he’d filed against the city of Los Angeles after suffering harassment and discrimination when he was a sergeant. The settlement led to his reinstatement to the force, but Grobeson soon filed a second lawsuit, charging the city and numerous police staff with violating the settlement agreement, as well as his federal and state constitutional and state statutory rights. Grobeson also challenged the LAPD’s decision to suspend him for his “unauthorized recruiting” of lesbians and gay men to join the force, and for allegedly wearing his uniform without permission in a photo in a gay weekly, and at gay pride and AIDS-awareness events. This second lawsuit prompted the city to make widespread improvements in its sexual orientation employment policies. Settlement discussions to make further improvements to city and LAPD employment policies have continued for many years, but at last appear close to resolution.
Because the government is funded by tax dollars, discrimination against public employees is particularly troubling. In addition, ending sexual orientation employment discrimination within law enforcement agencies is an important step to combating bias against gay people by the police.
Lambda Legal's Impact
Grobeson’s case has already led to many beneficial modifications in Los Angeles’s citywide policies regarding sexual orientation antidiscrimination, recruitment, training and complaint-resolution policies. Final resolution of the case may cause even more positive enhancements in those policies. Many of these changes affect not only law enforcement employees, but all employees of the city.
- June 1996 Lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Grobeson against city of Los Angeles and numerous LAPD officers.
- June 1998 Disciplinary charges imposed against Grobeson are overturned by the Los Angeles Superior Court on the ground that the proceedings against him violated Grobeon's constitutional rights to due process.
- 1998 – 2007 Lengthy settlement negotiations and discovery proceed.
- November 2007 Los Angeles City Council votes unanimously to approve the non-monetary portion of Grobeson’s settlement. Grobeson has not been reinstated or allowed to retire honorably. Trial on monetary issues still scheduled for November 13, 2007.
Jon W. Davidson
Bert Voorhees and Theresa Traber of Traber & Voorhees