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Queer police lieutenant who bravely served for 25 years says he was fired for being gay and HIV positive

Emma Powys Maurice May 11, 2020
Los Angeles

The lawsuit alleges that the city of Los Angeles failed to prevent discrimination against a gay officer (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty)

A former police lieutenant has filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles after he was allegedly fired for being gay and HIV positive after almost 25 years service.

Steven Prendergast was hired to the force in 1995 and was promoted regularly throughout his employment. He acted as the police department’s spokesman before he was fired in 2019.

The lawsuit claims his firing was a result of discrimination, as he was falsely accused of inappropriately touching two fellow officers during a trip to Washington DC for National Police Week.

Prendergast denies the allegations against him and points out that heterosexual officers who admitted to acts of battery against fellow officers were not terminated for their actions.

He also says he was regularly subjected to homophobic comments from some colleagues, and was denied access to the medical care of his choice because of his HIV diagnosis.

Gay lieutenant forced to endure ‘farcical’ investigation.

The court documents filed on Friday claim sexual orientation discrimination, disability discrimination, medical discrimination and failure to prevent discrimination.

“Because Lt. Prendergast is homosexual and has been diagnosed with HIV, the City wrongfully terminated his employment,” reads the complaint, which has been seen by the Daily Breeze.

It adds that a subsequent internal investigation conducted by police chief Michael Saffell “was a farce that was intended solely to give the City the pretextual reason to terminate Lt. Prendergast”.

The city and police department has not yet been served with the lawsuit and said it was not their practice to comment at this stage.

“The City does however strictly enforce its equal employment guidelines, including prohibitions on workplace harassment, against and for the protection of all ranks of its employees, from entry level positions to top level managers,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“The City will respond in court at the appropriate time.”

Prendergast is seeking unspecified damages, saying that the city’s failure to prevent discrimination has negatively impacted him physically and emotionally.

More: employment discrimination, HIV, lawsuit, Los Angeles, police

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