ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Leanne Gomez was the first female law enforcement pilot certified to fly helicopters in New Mexico. It was a job she says she loved until she says the work environment became so bad at state police, she was forced to file a lawsuit for discrimination and harassment. This week, the state settled for $750,000.
“It really did just feel like a dream come true. I was elated and so grateful to have that opportunity, especially so early in my career,” says Leanne Gomez.
Story continues below:
- Albuquerque: 2022 American Indian Arts Festival featured at Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
- Ballon Fiesta: New special shape balloons to keep an eye out for at 50th Balloon Fiesta
- Crime: Albuquerque man faces nearly 10 years for 2019 manslaughter
- Wildfires: ‘We’re at the mercy of the government’: Funding continues for family impacted by wildfires
Ever since she was a child, Leanne Gomez had dreamed of one day becoming a pilot. In 2015, she thought her dream had come true, when she became the first female pilot to join New Mexico State Police. But Gomez says, her dream turned into a nightmare when she faced constant jokes about her gender until she left the position in March 2019 for medical reasons because of a hostile work environment.
The lawsuit filed in 2020 states Gomez says she was “harassed, demeaned, belittled and discriminated” against. Court documents state it all started when a supervisor at a conference referred to her as his wife and she objected to it.
Gomez says it got progressively worse as she had to deal with derogatory terms, fellow pilots urinating in front of her, and leaving her out of important training and meetings.“Just having people or tokens or representations of that diversity without honoring what that diversity means, I think is a problem within agencies. And so being able to honor that and not just have someone standing there that’s checking a box,” says Gomez.
Gomez says she was told not to break a nail on any task she did, and sometimes was treated like a secretary instead of a pilot. Court documents state that Gomez was repeatedly told to “leave” and to “go somewhere else” if she wanted “to fly”.
“I’m hoping that bringing all of this up, will pave the way for the next female that comes in the next pilot that wants to work with state police or any other police agency in the state. And for her to be able to succeed because lessons have been learned from what I went through,” says Gomez.
Gomez says she was even called a rat for questioning safety procedures. Gomez says that in the future she may consider pursuing a law degree. KRQE News 13 reached out to the Department of Safety for comment but have not heard back yet.