Suit: SF parks head, union discriminate against worker

SANTA FE – A lawsuit filed by a longtime Santa Fe city employee alleges violations of minimum and overtime wage laws, discrimination based on her gender and sexual orientation and retaliation after she complained about her treatment.

Barbara Lopez, a city employee since 1997 and the Parks and Recreation Department’s special events coordinator since 2002, names city parks and recreation director John Muñoz and the union that represents most city employees as defendants in her complaint.

Lopez’s suit says that she did not get paid for being on-call for up to 18 hours at a time during weekends over 15 years, “despite the fact that all hours she was on call must be considered compensable hours worked.”

According to the suit, Lopez was on call for markets and festivals on the downtown Plaza, film shoots, sporting events and other activities held at city parks and that during on-call periods she responded to an average of six to seven calls. She said she often had to be on the Plaza or park sites to resolve issues.

Lopez’s complaint says she is gay and maintains that she was passed over for raises in pay, benefits and rank because of her gender and sexual orientation, while male and heterosexual coworkers with similar or fewer years of experience and responsibility received pay raises and promotions.

The suit also says that a new classification and compensation agreement between the city and the American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees Local 3999 was adopted through “a suspicious process” that reclassified Lopez to a level with lower compensation.

Local union president Michelle Gutierrez, who along with the union is individually named as a defendant, declined to comment, as did a city government spokeswoman.

Lopez remains employed by the city. Online records show that she makes $27.89 per hour, the equivalent of about $58,000 a year.

The complaint says that union leader Gutierrez and parks director Muñoz, who was hired by Mayor Alan Webber’s administration last year after a previous parks department head was not retained, discriminated against Lopez “based upon her sex, sexual orientation, and in retaliation for her complaints.”

The also suit says that Lopez has witnessed Muñoz and others in the Parks and Recreation Department “objectify women and treat women who conform to gender stereotypes in their conduct and appearance more favorably than others, like Lopez, who does not conform to those stereotypes.”

Lopez is seeking twice the amount of unpaid or underpaid wages, twice the amount of back pay wages, lost wages, and compensation for emotional distress.

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