LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A judge ruled today that a black California Highway Patrol officer who acted as a driver for justices of the 2nd District Court of Appeal can move forward with all but one of the five claims in her lawsuit against her employer, in which she alleges she was sexually propositioned by an appellate justice.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michelle Williams Court said there were enough details in Tatiana Sauquillo’s complaint to support her claims of sexual and racial harassment, sex and race discrimination and failure to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent sexual and racial harassment.
Lawyers for the Attorney General’s Office maintained the three claims were vague as to whether Sauquillo was claiming she was a victim of discrimination and harassment based on gender or race or both.
The judge dismissed Sauquillo’s claim for sex discrimination in violation of the state constitution.
Sauquillo sued the CHP July 17. The daughter of a teen mother aspired as a youth to be a CHP officer and a role model for other young women of color, the suit states. She began her CHP training in 2009 and has never received a negative review of her work, the suit states.
Sauquillo is one of a small number of black women in the CHP’s 7,500-member force, the suit states. Some of her academy workout instructors, most of whom were white, referred to her as a “chocolate cupcake,” the suit states.
On a regular basis in 2009-12, non-black CHP officers with whom she worked referred to black neighborhoods as “s–tholes,” the suit states.
In 2009-11, a sergeant who was Sauquillo’s supervisor made sexually explicit comments to her in front of other employees and bosses and asked if she would have sex with him, the suit alleges. Co-workers pressured her not to cooperate in any investigation of the sergeant, but she refused to go along with their recommendations, the suit states.
Sauquillo obtained a transfer in 2012 to the CHP’s Transportation Management Section, then the next year applied for and was accepted into the Judicial Protection Section in 2013, hoping that she would be able to avoid the sexual harassment she allegedly experienced from her sergeant, the suit states.
“Unfortunately, this was not the case,” the suit states.
Justice Jeffrey W. Johnson sexually propositioned Sauquillo and touched her without permission, the suit states. He commented on her appearance and said he wanted to take her clothes off, the suit alleges.
Once when she was driving him home from a bar association function, he asked her to stop the vehicle so he could have sex with her, according to her suit.
Johnson told the plaintiff that although he was married, he wanted to take her for drinks and then to his chamber so they could have sex, the suit alleges.
Johnson also regularly made comments regarding Officer Sauquillo’s race and asked Sauquillo if she had “ever been with a black man,” the suit states.
The justice also asked Sauquillo what race her sexual partner was and whether she would be willing to date an older man such as him, the suit alleges.
Sauquillo requested and received a reassignment in 2016, according to her complaint. She told two other justices about Johnson, but neither started an investigation and one warned her to “be careful,” the suit states.
Johnson’s lawyers have denied Sauquillo’s allegations and said she continued driving him after making her allegations. They also said Johnson voluntarily took and passed lie detector tests in which he denied the most serious allegations by Sauquillo.
Sauquillo also alleges that when she went on maternity leave in 2017, she was pressured by a CHP officer to return early and to give her baby formula rather than nurse the child.