CW wins gender discrimination and retaliation jury trial

April 2024

Jennifer Seetoo, captain of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Malibu/Lost Hills station, has served the county as a law enforcement officer for more than two decades. Though the local community viewed Seetoo as a competent, trustworthy leader after her outstanding performance handling the Woolsey Fire in 2018, the evidence in a recent jury trial demonstrated that former sheriff Alex Villanueva waged a long-ranging campaign to tarnish her reputation. He blocked her promotion to captain, belittled her, and accused her of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with an elected official. After months of enduring discriminatory treatment, Seetoo submitted a complaint and was swiftly removed from her position at the station and transferred elsewhere. She retained Cohen Williams to file a complaint against Villanueva and his staff, alleging gender discrimination, retaliation, and failure to prevent discrimination or retaliation. 

The case proceeded to trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court. At trial, CW partners Kathleen Erskine and Roya Ladan painted a vivid picture of the double standards and targeted mistreatment Seetoo had suffered for more than a year—mistreatment that amounted to unlawful discrimination and retaliation at the highest levels of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Notably, our team proved that the department’s alleged promotional requirements, which had been cited as grounds for Seetoo’s non-selection to interview for the captain position and for various other actions taken against her, were not official departmental standards. In fact, numerous male employees had been exempt from these requirements over the years. We also provided the court with testimony from a former assistant sheriff who witnessed Villanueva stating that Seetoo was having an affair with a city official, which was false and defamatory.


After hearing the evidence, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of Seetoo on all of her claims and awarded $971,369 in damages.