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Judge reduces $17.4-million jury award to former L.A. city worker in sexual harassment case

The city seal on the back of a Bureau of Sanitation truck.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles judge has trimmed $5 million from a $17.4-million jury award given to a former Bureau of Sanitation worker in a retaliation and sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the city.

The worker, James Pearl, accepted the reduction ordered by L.A. Superior Court Judge Stephen Czuleger, according to court papers filed Sept. 8.

A Los Angeles jury in June awarded Pearl $17.4 million after finding that he endured repeated harassment by his supervisors, who falsely perceived that he was gay.

Pearl was subjected to verbal abuse, hazing and a bullying campaign in which his portrait was altered to show him in a same-sex relationship with a subordinate, the jury found.

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Managers and supervisors referred to Pearl using derogatory terms, according to court papers, and circulated offensive messages about him.

Pearl had been fired by the city in 2011. He was reinstated 13 months later and was given the same supervisor who had been showing the doctored photographs during his time away.

In his order last week, Czuleger questioned whether the jury’s award was in part a move to punish the city, rather than give “reasonable damages” to Pearl.

He wrote that “numerous city employees, and most importantly, managers perjured themselves repeatedly during trial.” That perjury was “apparent to me but more importantly to the jury,” Czuleger wrote.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer, said the city is reviewing its options.

dakota.smith@latimes.com

Twitter: @dakotacdsmith


UPDATES:

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2:25 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from City Atty. Mike Feuer’s office.

This article was originally published at 2 p.m.


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