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Jury sides with Air Force veteran in gender discrimination suit against Burbank

A jury found that a Toluca Lake man was discriminated against because of his gender when he was denied a job as a police dispatcher for the city of Burbank, where all the current dispatchers are women.

Michael Naylor — who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1984 to 2000 before he was injured and discharged — sued the city in 2014 after he applied, interviewed and tested for a communications operator position with the city, but was passed over for the job in favor of a woman whose only previous work experience was “the lunch rush at In-N-Out,” his attorney Leonard Tavera said.

“He’s an absolute Superman,” said Tavera, for whom Naylor now works as a paralegal. “There’s no way you can justify making the decision they did.”

Naylor, 50, was awarded $65,175 in damages, plus interest, and another $163,773 for attorney fees, court records show.

The city has since asked a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to overrule the jury’s verdict, and has also requested a new trial. A hearing on those motions is slated for later this month. If the judge rules against the city, city officials intend to appeal the verdict.

“We feel that based on the law, that there isn’t the evidence to support a finding of sex discrimination,” Burbank City Atty. Amy Albano said.

On Naylor’s age discrimination claim, however, the jury sided with the city.

In July 2013, after interviewing and testing for the dispatcher job, Naylor was told by city officials in an email that he had “passed all phases of the selection process and that he was ranked No. 1 of all applicants for the position,” according to his lawsuit.

The following month, Naylor was told over the phone by a Burbank detective that he was being considered for a police officer position for which he had applied the previous year. Specifically, he was invited to an “orientation” for the position, he said.

Naylor found the timing of this curious, especially since he’d been told several months earlier that he was ranked a low No. 17 for the police officer position.

Within an hour of hanging up, Naylor said, he got another phone call from the agency asking him to come in for a “supplemental interview” for the dispatcher position. During this interview, he was asked if he’d have a problem working with difficult women.

The question “hit me like a truck,” he said. “I’d never had anybody ask me that.”

That same day, the Burbank detective recruiting him for the police officer position called him and asked him why he wanted to be a dispatcher, as it was “women’s work,” Naylor recalled.

After the supplemental interview, Naylor was informed that he’d been bumped from No. 1 to No. 3 out of four applicants who had been interviewed for the dispatcher position. Naylor said he later learned that neither of the two women who were bumped ahead of him ended up passing their background investigations.

According to Tavera, police officials said they declined to process Naylor’s application further after one lieutenant reported that Naylor became “enraged” when he was told that he was bumped from No. 1 to No. 3. Naylor, however, said this never happened.

Albano declined to comment on what happened during the recruitment process.

According to Tavera, all of the city’s current dispatchers are women, and the city hasn’t hired a man in that position since 1998.

Meanwhile, Albano said the city employed a male dispatcher in the recent past, who, according to Police Chief Scott LaChasse, retired roughly two years ago. Albano added that a man made it to the background stage of the hiring process for a dispatcher position during the same recruitment cycle in which Naylor applied, but he took a job with another agency.

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Alene Tchekmedyian, alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Twitter: @atchek


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