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Anaheim settles discrimination case with former city attorney

The City of Anaheim has settled a lawsuit commenced by its former city attorney, Christine Talley, after she was forced to resign her position in 2013. The pressure to resign apparently arose out of a lawsuit commenced by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that challenged Anaheim's system of electing its city council members.

Prior to her discharge, Talley had worked for the City for 16 years, the last four as its top lawyer. The ACLU suit was filed before Talley was fired, and Talley claimed that the lawsuit triggered her discharge. The ACLU alleged that Anaheim's system of electing all council members at large, instead of from specific districts, resulted in the under-representation of Latinos in city government (53 percent of Anaheim's population is Latino, but no Latinos sit on the city council.) Talley, who is Latina, alleged that several council members doubted her ability to defend this suit because of her Hispanic heritage. Some openly questioned her loyalty to the City, but they offered only vague critiques of her work.

The City denied Talley's wrongful termination allegations and pointed to the fact that she had never used establish city procedures to report her alleged mistreatment. A Los Angeles law firm hired to investigate the charges concluded that allegations of racial discrimination and breach of contract were baseless. As the litigation progressed, the court dismissed Talley's claims of gender discrimination and retaliatory termination. In the end, the City of Anaheim agreed to pay Talley the total sum of $1,450,000 to settle all of her claims.

This case again demonstrates the subtle forms that employment discrimination, harassment and retaliation can take. Many employees who occupy positions far less prominent than the Anaheim city attorney face work conditions that require them to ignore hostile or sex-related comments or face the possibility of being fired. Anyone who is in such a situation may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in workplace discrimination and wrongful termination cases. Such a consultation can provide a helpful analysis of the facts and law of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages and attorneys' fees.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Anaheim settles discrimination lawsuit from city's first Latina attorney for $1.45 million," Matt Hamilton, Oct. 12, 2016

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