Gay prison cook gets $1.97 million for discrimination
July 26 2003 12:00 AM ET
A jury awarded nearly $2 million to a California juvenile detention center cook who maintains he suffered years of discrimination and verbal harassment on the job because he is gay. Bruce Hope, 41, sued the state in 2001, alleging that he was denied a promotion and pressured to quit because of his sexual orientation. Hope also said fellow employees at the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility in Whittier repeatedly called him derogatory names and that he was forced to go on medical leave after four years due to the stress. Hope, who is HIV-positive and partially blind, stated in the lawsuit that he
told his supervisors about his medical condition after working at the center for one year. "During the next three years he was subjected to verbal taunts from the staff and wards, including workers telling people that Hope might be spreading AIDS by touching knives in the kitchen," according to the suit.
The jury awarded Hope $1.97 million in a unanimous verdict Wednesday in Los Angeles County superior court. "I am relieved jurors could see I was telling the truth," Hope said Thursday in a statement. His lawyer, Victor George, described Hope as an exemplary worker. "All he asked his supervisors for was to follow the law and do their jobs, which included protecting him from a highly hostile work environment," the lawyer said. Deputy Attorney General Michelle Logan-Stern called Hope's allegations "grossly exaggerated." She said the jury awarded him the money because he was a sympathetic witness. The state will consider whether to appeal the verdict, Logan-Stern said.