A Black member of the Los Angeles County Probation Department is suing her employer, alleging she was demoted from a management job as a backlash for exposing excessive force and other problems within the department and that she has been subjected to racial discrimination.
Jennifer Donnell’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges retaliation, discrimination, harassment and failure to prevent harassment and discrimination and retaliation. She seeks unspecified damages in the suit brought Monday.
A county spokesman said Thursday the county does not comment on pending litigation.
Donnell was hired by the county in 1999 as a program analyst and has held such other positions as senior contract program auditor, director of Internal Affairs and bureau chief, the suit states.
“However, Ms. Donnell’s career came to a screeching halt in March 2020 when she was administratively transferred to a compliance and strategic planning position in retaliation for her raising concerns about illegal conduct taking place within the county,” the suit states.
Before her reassignment, Donnell was a senior manager in the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Probation Department, the suit states. Since her reassignment, she has twice been denied promotions based on race and has been targeted for coming forward and addressing key problems involving Probation Department managers and officers, the suit alleges.
“(Donnell) believes that certain managers and decision makers within the Probation Department and in the county … are playing favorites to overlook discipline and/or are hostile towards plaintiff’s protected activities (in) exposing and holding accountable certain individuals who have engaged in excessive force, abuse and witness intimidation within the Department and in connection with federal and state criminal matters,” according to the suit.
Just days before learning of her reassignment, Donnell had complained to a member of the County Counsel’s office about alleged secret roundtable meetings that were being conducted by an all-white team of county executives and others to review, and in some cases even reverse, discipline that Donnell had recommended against probation officers for “egregious acts of child abuse,” the suit states.
After Donnell moved to her new assignment, she was denied the resources, personnel and tools that were promised to her and were necessary to perform her job, and she was transferred from the county headquarters to a building that was a former jail, according to her suit.
“(Donnell) believes that her protected activities and her high-profile position as a woman of color have contributed (to) management pushing for her removal, reassignment and a continuing marginalization” of her, resulting in a loss of job duties and promotional opportunities, the suit states.
Donnell, a “dedicated member of the law enforcement community and long-standing county employee with an exceptional employment record,” has suffered harm to her job prospects within the county as well as to her health and well-being, the suit states.