LAFD Captain Wins $3.75 Million in Discrimination Case

Updated: 06-08-2007 10:38:28 AM

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A jury Thursday awarded $3.75 million to a Los Angeles Fire Department captain who alleged he was retaliated against for refusing to give preferential treatment to a female firefighter recruit.

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury of seven men and five women deliberated about 1 1/2 days before finding in favor of LAFD Capt. Frank Lima, who filed his lawsuit in May 2006.

"We are disappointed with the verdict and are considering our options," said Jonathan Diamond, a spokesman for the City Attorney's Office.

Lima claimed he was discriminated and retaliated against because he was a male and applied the same standards in training a female recruit that he would have done had she been a man.

Lima's duties included training firefighters in emergency tactics and conducting firefighting drills, according to his court papers. In June 2004, he supervised training for Melissa B. Kelley as she tried and failed to perform a training exercise involving a 35-foot ladder, according to his lawsuit.

Kelley later claimed she was injured and that Lima had humiliated her, even though she never told him on the day of the training that she was hurt, Lima's court papers state.

Lima claims he was transferred from the station where he was working. He said he also was told by a supervisor during a May 2005 Board of Rights hearing regarding the Kelley incident to treat women differently and in a disparate manner because it was difficult to recruit and retain female firefighters.

The board found that Lima did not harass Kelley because of her gender, but reprimanded him for not taking steps to ensure her safety, according to his court papers, which state that the board "came to this erroneous decision despite the fact the drill was proper and Lima had no knowledge of Kelley's prior injury."

Lima's attorney, Gregory W. Smith, said Lima also was denied a prestigious ********* to a higher rank of captain.

Smith said his client is anxious to return to the Pacific Palisades fire station where he is assigned.

"He just wants to go back to work and serve the citizens of Los Angeles," Smith said. "Now he won't have to worry about being retaliated against."