A Black member of the Los Angeles County Probation Department who sued her employer, alleging racial discrimination and that she was demoted from a management job for exposing excessive force and other problems within the department, has reached a settlement of her lawsuit, her attorney told a judge Wednesday.
Attorney Michael W. Parks, on behalf of plaintiff Jennifer Donnell, made the announcement during a case management conference on Wednesday before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Keosian. Parks did not divulge any terms.
Donnell’s suit alleged retaliation, discrimination, harassment and failure to prevent harassment and discrimination and retaliation. She seeks unspecified damages in the suit brought Oct. 4. A county spokesman previously said the county does not comment on 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 stated.
“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 stated.
Before her reassignment, Donnell was a senior manager in the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Probation Department, the suit stated. 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 alleged.
“(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 stated.
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” contributed to management’s push for her removal and reassignment as well as a continuing marginalization of her that resulted in a loss of job duties and promotional opportunities, the suit stated.
Donnell, a “dedicated member of the law enforcement community and long-standing county employee with an exceptional employment record,” also suffered harm to her health and well-being, the suit stated.
Previous related story: Black probation manager alleges discrimination, retaliation for speaking out