LOS ANGELES – A former Gardena police lieutenant who alleged in a lawsuit that he was wrongfully fired in 2019 because he is gay and has HIV has reached a settlement in his lawsuit against the city.
Attorneys for Steven Prendergast filed court papers on Aug. 15 with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Green stating that the case was resolved. No terms were divulged.
Prendergast sued the city in May 2020, alleging sexual orientation discrimination, disability discrimination, medical condition discrimination and failure to prevent discrimination.
Lawyers for the city maintained in their court papers that Prendergast’s allegations were unfounded.
“The city never considered plaintiff’s sexual orientation in any employment decision … as evidenced by plaintiff receiving promotions to the rank of Sergeant in 2006 and to the rank of Lieutenant in 2009 on his first attempt,” the city’s attorneys stated in their court papers.
Prendergast acknowledged that he had a “tremendous amount of comfort and respect” for the city and contrasted the municipality with other agencies throughout the state and country that do not treat members of the gay law enforcement community as well, according to the city’s lawyers’ court papers.
According to the suit, Prendergast began working for the Gardena Police Department in 1995 and received regular promotions. He claimed his colleagues made insensitive remarks regarding gay people, and that he was denied access to his choice of medical care because of his HIV.
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 who also went to the event, the suit alleged.
Numerous Gardena police officers were present and none recalled seeing him touch anyone in an unseemly way, according to Prendergast’s court papers.
“Instead, because Lt. Prendergast is homosexual and has been diagnosed with HIV, the city wrongfully terminated his employment,” the suit alleged.
An investigation conducted by 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,” according to the suit, which also alleged that Gardena officers who were not gay and admitted to committing a battery against their colleagues were not fired.