A longtime Los Angeles Unified Office of General Counsel attorney who alleges he was denied a prestigious position in 2011 testified Friday that he was surprised to later learn that the decision-makers had been provided information about a discrimination complaint he brought against the district in 2003.
“It was a big shock,” Jesus Estrada Melendez told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury during the trial of his lawsuit against the LAUSD. “It was a kick in the guts. I never imagined this would happen.”
Melendez alleges he suffered emotional distress from the revelation, but he also acknowledged when cross-examined by defense attorney Linda Miller Savitt that he has dealt with mental trauma from his treatment for prostate cancer, which he was diagnosed with after losing his bid to be the district’s personnel director. He lost the position to another candidate, Janalyn Glymph.
Melendez, who joined the LAUSD in 1984, and attorney Robert Cuen filed a complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing, expressing concern about the lack of diversity in their office and among its managers. Three of the 39 staff attorneys at the time were Latinos, according to the counsel’s office.
The personnel director oversees all departments within the Personnel Commission, including recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, employment assignments and transactions, appeals and staff development. Melendez says that although he was the most qualified applicant, he was ready to move on after he was denied the position until he learned that the selection process was allegedly tainted.
According to Melendez, a background report prepared for the Personnel Commission before they made their selection contained copies of his DFEH complaint and the accompanying news coverage was flagged by the Office of Inspector General and labeled as a “significant issue.”
Melendez said that after Glymph had been selected instead of him, Wendy Macy, who herself was a former LAUSD personnel director and later its chief operating officer, met with him in November 2011 and informed him that the commission members had seen the report.
“It became a source of stress and anxiety,” Melendez said.
However, Savitt read aloud passages of portions of Melendez’s 2017 deposition testimony in which he said the meeting with Macy took place in 2012 or 2013 and that he was unsure from what she said if the commission members read the report.
Melendez, 71, said he underwent treatment and had surgery for his prostate cancer years after being passed over for the personnel director job, but that his most recent medical reports show no sign the disease has returned..
“Do you still have stress from your cancer?,” Savitt asked.
“Yes,” Melendez said.
Savitt told jurors the decision-makers never saw the background report and that all of them had a pro-employee background, meaning it would not have swayed them against Melendez even if they knew about it.
Savitt said Melendez competed in a competitive selection process and is now unhappy that he did not get the job or a salary higher than the $170,000 he currently earns.