A former Gardena police lieutenant is suing the city, alleging he was fired in 2019 because he is gay and had HIV.
Former Lt. Steven Prendergast says that allegations he inappropriately touched other officers at a memorial service were false. His Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges sexual orientation discrimination, disability discrimination, medical discrimination and failure to prevent discrimination. He seeks unspecified damages in the suit filed Friday.
A representative of the city could not be immediately reached for comment.
Prendergast began working for the city as a police officer in 1995 and received regular promotions, the suit states. Prendergast is gay, has HIV and married his husband in 2018, according to his suit.
While with the GPD, police colleagues made insensitive remarks regarding gay people, the suit states. He also was denied access to his choice of medical care because of his HIV, the suit alleges.
In May 2019, Prendergast attended National Police Week in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the life of a fallen Gardena police officer, but when he returned he was falsely accused of inappropriately touching two subordinate police officers also at the event, the suit states.
“Lt. Prendergast did not recall engaging in such activity, but is well aware of many non-homosexual police officers that have engaged in such acts during his tenure with the city, including within the past year,” the suit states.
There were numerous Gardena police officers present and none recalled seeing him touch anyone in an unseemly way, Prendergast’s suit states.
“Instead, because Lt. Prendergast is homosexual and has been diagnosed with HIV, the city wrongfully terminated his employment,” according to the complaint.
Gardena officers who were not gay and admitted to committing a battery against their colleagues were not fired, the suit states.
An investigation conducted Chief Michael Saffell into the allegations against Prendergast “was a farce that was intended solely to give the city the pretextual reason to terminate Lt. Prendergast,” the suit states.
Prendergast has suffered from stress that has negatively impacted him physically and emotionally due to the city’s failure to prevent discrimination, the suit alleges.
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