Luz Hessler worked in the Los Angeles County Department of Health until April 2012. Her story of disability discrimination, racial discrimination, and harassment began in September 2008 after she sustained a work related injury.
Hessler alleged that her manager slammed a door into her knee that resulted in a necessary knee surgery. She further alleged that there was a culture of ongoing discrimination and harassment based on her Mexican heritage and accent from her co-worker Raquel Paxton. Due to the knee injury, Hessler took a leave of absence from work to take care of the surgery.
Plaintiff returned in July 2009. As expected, she had physical work restrictions and accommodations, but more surprisingly Hessler came back to work with psychological restrictions to limit the hostile work environment that she had experienced before. Paxton, the co-worker who was allegedly responsible for the harassment and hostility, took up the mantle once more. Paxton continuously accused Hessler of faking her injury and convinced other employees that Hessler was a fake.
While plaintiff claims the County of LA did little to nothing to properly investigate the abuse, the defendants’ counsel provided evidence that Paxton had been disciplined for her behavior. In response, plaintiff stated the County had given Paxton numerous verbal and informal warnings, but it never culminated into anything of substance. Eventually, in April of 2012, Hessler had to stop working for the County because they would not abide by her accommodations.
Hessler filed her lawsuit initially on April 12, 2013. Though it was a long road for Hessler and her attorneys to trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff. She was awarded $154,040 in damages alone, since her worker’s compensation case took care of her medical expenses. The attorneys, meanwhile, were awarded $1.28 million.