An officer with the Bob Hope Airport police department has filed suit against the airfield's owner and a sergeant on the force, alleging discrimination and retaliation because he is gay.
In the lawsuit, Richard Ellis claims the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority didn't do anything to stop the harassment, even after being notified of the situation.
The Airport Authority and Police Sgt. Henry Gomez deny all of Ellis' allegations, according to court documents. Reached Friday, airport officials declined to comment on the case and would not say whether Ellis and Gomez remain employed by the agency.
Ellis joined the department in November 2006 after working as a police officer with the city of Glendale.
When he started with the department, he worked with Gomez, who initially was friendly to Ellis and often complimented him on his work, according to court documents.
However, Gomez allegedly called a commander in the department a “fag” in front of Ellis, court documents state.
Despite this, Ellis later found out there were other gay officers in the police department, so he felt comfortable coming out at work.
But afterward, the suit states, Gomez's attitude toward Ellis changed.
Ellis claims Gomez wrongly reprimanded him for being late.
Gomez also allegedly tried to block Ellis from becoming a field training officer. Once Ellis had become a training officer, Gomez told trainee Jack Greenberg that “your future training officer is a fag,” according to court documents.
At one point, Ellis did not have a new officer to train. When a recruit was hired, Gomez assigned the trainee to a non-field officer, claiming that Ellis was incompetent.
Gomez also accused Ellis of taking off 11 consecutive Fridays. However, when his work schedule was examined, Ellis had not taken off even two consecutive Fridays, court documents state.
Beginning in early 2007, Ellis said he complained to three police commanders, Police Chief Ed Skvarna and others that Gomez was homophobic and was harassing him because he was gay.
In April 2009, Ellis filed a formal written complaint with department brass. A few months later, however, Skvarna told Ellis that the authority could not take action because there wasn't enough evidence of wrongdoing.
Gomez did acknowledge that he called Ellis a “sissy,” according to court documents.
In March 2010 Ellis notified the authority that he had filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, charging sexual orientation discrimination.
In its legal response, the authority claims it “took reasonable steps to prevent and correct workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation.”
About eight months later, the authority reduced Ellis' seniority because of time taken off for knee surgery in 2008 and neck surgery in 2009, per an existing agreement between the authority and the police officers association, according to the lawsuit.
However, the authority had never enforced that provision previously, court documents state.
The authority's legal response states that Ellis' seniority reduction was justified under a seniority system and was not a result of his sexual orientation.
Ellis alleges that he dropped 10 positions on the seniority list, potentially hurting his job security in the event of layoffs.