SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Former local news anchor Paula Lopez Ochoa has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, NPG of California, LLC, claiming she was illegally fired. Among the 17 counts in her lawsuit, she claims she was discriminated against based on race, that she was paid less than her colleagues, and she was subjected to intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Just over a year ago, Ochoa was arrested by Highway Patrol officers after reports of a wrong-way driver on Highway 101. At the time of the incident she was the evening anchor for KCOY 12 and KKFX Fox 11 newscasts. She later pleaded no contest to charges of DUI and battery of an officer. She was electronically monitored by the sheriff's department for 50 days.
The station General Manager declined comment on the lawsuit, saying he wouldn't discuss personnel issues involving current or former employees.
In her complaint, Ochoa is asking for payment of general and special damages based on damages to her reputation.
"When an employee is struggling with a disabling medical condition, we expect their employer to respond with compassion and understanding, and to reasonably accommodate that employee's disability as the law requires. We don't expect an employer to punish or fire an employee for having a disability, and the law does not tolerate that," wrote Janean Acevedo Daniels, Ochoa's attorney, in an email to the station.
"If Paula had had cancer, and the Station had forced her to undergo treatment and testing of its choosing, and then fired her, no one would have tolerated that. In that case, everyone would have understood that it is wrong and illegal to punish an employee for symptoms or behavior that are products of their disabling disease. But that is exactly what happened in this case," Daniels wrote.
Ochoa is asking for a jury trial. A hearing is scheduled early next year.