California Angels President Richard Brown testified during a federal court hearing Wednesday that he ordered a male executive to stop using a derogatory nickname when addressing a female employee of the organization.
Brown said he took action when Natalia Sweeney complained in the spring of 1991 that John Sevano, the baseball team's assistant vice president of media relations, had used what she called "vulgar" language to make fun of her diminutive size.
Brown, who has run the club the past four years, said he asked Sevano about it after Sweeney's complaint had come to his attention. "He said it was a term of endearment, that he had nicknames for a lot of people. I said, 'Cut it out.' "
Sweeney, 54, of Orange, wants a federal jury to find that the Angels owe her compensatory and punitive damages for alleged sexual harassment, racial discrimination and wrongful termination.
The secretary and administrative assistant said she was the only Latina on the Angels' administrative staff at the time.
Outside the courtroom, she said she was the target of racial slurs and sexual harassment, as her lawsuit contends, and the term Sevano used was not one of endearment.
"No, it was very offensive," Sweeney said. "I tried to stop him but I couldn't. I found it very humiliating, especially since I was the only person given a name like that in the organization."
But Neil Andrus, the Angels' attorney, said there was testimony during the trial that Sevano frequently used the term in a kidding manner and that Sweeney would laugh.
"They were buddies," Andrus said.
Brown testified that he transferred Sweeney to two different departments to give her a chance to show her capabilities. The first transfer, which he called a promotion, was to community relations.
"We were trying to have an emphasis on the Hispanic community in Santa Ana," Brown said. "I told her it was a better career path."
Sweeney seemed "happy" with the move at first, he said, but later complained that the $1,000-a-year raise she got worked out to 48 cents an hour and was inadequate.
Her new boss later complained that he was dissatisfied with her work, Brown said.
Sweeney went on disability leave, Brown said, and was put in ticket sales when she returned. He said he decided to eliminate her position in October, 1992.
"We had lost substantial money that year," Brown said. "When she came back, her workload had decreased. We put people into sales and eliminated her and another person in the ticket office."
Asked if he laid Sweeney off because of her ethnicity or because she had complained, Brown replied, "Absolutely not."
Sweeney's attorney, Michael H. Colmenares, declined to say how much money he would ask the jury to award his client in closing arguments next week, but said he would ask for punitive damages. At the very least, he said, Sweeney should get back pay from the time she was laid off. She was making $24,000 a year at the time she left the Angels.