City of Beverly Hills and Chief Spagnoli Named in New Lawsuit
A new lawsuit was filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court on March 30 against the City of Beverly Hills and Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli. Plaintiff Scott Dibble, a sergeant with the Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD), alleges causes of action for harassment, discrimination, failure to accommodate and retaliation. The complaint alleges the following:
In 2018, Dibble suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident while on duty. Later, he returned to work, and eventually was promoted to sergeant (He had sued the City for delayed promotion and received a settlement in a prior civil case.) Dibble has fully performed all work-related duties since then. However, a Qualified Medical Exam (QME) in late 2019 questioned his ability to lift more than 25 pounds on a repetitive basis.
Dibble claims his duties do not require him to lift 25 pounds on a repetitive basis (i.e., more than two hours in a day). Therefore, the restriction in the QME was not a legitimate basis to prevent him from working. “Nevertheless, defendant refused to allow Dibble to return to work.” That refusal, the complaint alleges, is based on improper, discriminatory motives. Those motives include Dibble’s failure to accede to “unwelcome sexual advances or conduct or comments by Spagnoli.”
Dibble’s attorney Bradley C. Gage has represented other plaintiffs in litigation against the City and Spagnoli. Some have resulted in seven-figure recoveries. Gage told the Courier: “She [Spagnoli] has created a lot of problems and has failed to appreciate what is required from a leader under modern rules against discrimination, harassment and retaliation. I think that is crystal clear from all the testimony, the rulings of people who investigated it, juries’ decisions, several judges opinions when the City tried to throw the cases out on summary judgment, that there is wrongdoing in the City of Beverly Hills that has been allowed to continue and will cost taxpayers probably millions more for however long the chief remains.”
He added, “Any reasonable employer in the private sector would have taken measures to change the situation years ago. But, the City of Beverly Hills which has unlimited funds, lots of insurance and just doesn’t seem to care about its employees or appreciate the long-term consequences about what happens in the police department has just turned a blind eye.”
Beverly Hills City Attorney Laurence S. Wiener believes Dibble’s case is entirely misguided. He told the Courier that Dibble has, in fact, been offered his job back.
“This situation is all of Sgt. Dibble’s making, but not uncommon in the worker’s compensation context. He was working without restrictions after his 2018 motorcycle accident and was even promoted to sergeant during that time. Then he requested an opinion from a Qualified Medical Examiner in order to obtain a partial permanent disability award. The Qualified Medical Examiner issued an opinion that he could not lift more than 25 pounds on a ‘repetitive basis.’ A police officer’s gun belt normally weighs approximately 20-30 pounds. Sgt. Dibble was then put on leave, with pay, while we sorted out what the doctor meant by ‘repetitive basis.’ I understand that we have now offered to return Sgt. Dibble to work,” said Wiener.
Moreover, added Wiener, Dibble’s situation was handled entirely by the Risk Management Division. “Chief Spagnoli has not been involved in this process,” he said.