Lesbian Journalist Vindicated in Employment Discrimination Claims

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Lambda applauds settlement between journalist and newspaper
December 14, 2000

(LOS ANGELES, December 14, 2000) — A lesbian journalist and a Southern California newspaper settled a job-discrimination lawsuit that had helped propel the strengthening of California’s anti-bias law covering lesbian and gay workers, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Thursday. Managing Attorney Jennifer C. Pizer of Lambda’s Western Regional Office praised the settlement reached Wednesday between Cynthia Frazier and the Palisadian-Post, noting that this case also had provided one of the testimonials that helped convince Governor Davis to sign the bill revising and clarifying California’s employment laws in 1999.

“Not only is Frazier vindicated by this settlement, but employers throughout California are reminded not to waste employee talent and their own money with anti-gay discrimination and efforts to evade the law,” said Pizer.

The settlement for an undisclosed sum comes more than six years after Frazier was forced out of her job as associate editor at the Pacific Palisades weekly. She had worked for nearly eight years at the newspaper, receiving several merit raises and favorable annual reviews.

However, after Frazier’s supervisor saw pictures of her and her partner on vacation, the journalist became the subject of pervasive harassment, including being taunted and passed over for a promotion; she eventually was fired in 1993. She sued the newspaper under the state Labor Code, the law that applied to anti-gay job discrimination at the time.

In 1998, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge dismissed Frazier’s case, ruling that she had failed to first file a timely complaint with the state Labor Commissioner.

Before the California legislature amended the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to include sexual orientation in 1999, lesbian and gay workers had to look to protections in the state Labor Code, which contains less explicit protections, to redress anti-gay bias in the workplace.

Represented by Lambda, Frazier appealed in Frazier v. Palisadian-Post, arguing that the Labor Code, unlike FEHA, does not require exhaustion of administrative remedies. A unanimous three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles agreed, and ordered a new trial on the grounds that the journalist could not be held to FEHA’s administrative requirements when FEHA’s protections did not then apply to her case.

Said Frazier, 48, about the settlement, “I am glad that this chapter of my life has ended, and I hope that by pursuing this case I let other workers who face anti-gay discrimination know that they can stand up to discrimination and win.”

Lambda Cooperating Attorneys Karen Dinino and Manuella Hancock of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan worked with Pizer on the appeal. Frazier’s trial counsel, Los Angeles attorney Michael Duberchin, negotiated the settlement.

Headquartered in New York and with regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta, Lambda is the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV/AIDS.

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(Frazier v. Palisadian-Post, No. B125252)

Contact:Jennifer C. Pizer 323-937-2728 x 223 Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 (pager)



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