Mediation fails in Harrell lawsuit

An effort earlier this month to mediate the lawsuit filed by a former public safety dispatcher against the City of Gilroy failed in federal court. Plaintiff Patricia Harrell and two defendants—the City of Gilroy and the Gilroy Police Department—are now preparing for an upcoming trial.

Harrell filed the lawsuit against the city and the Gilroy Police Department in November 2017. She is accusing the defendants of wrongfully firing her from her job as a city employee in the police department’s dispatch center. She was fired in March 2016, and Harrell claims the city and police department discriminated against her based on her gender and age, and treated her unfairly.

The lawsuit is filed in the U.S. Northern District Court of California.

On April 12, attorneys for Harrell, the city and police department commenced mediation discussions in order to settle the lawsuit outside of court. An email notice from the court said of the mediation attempt, “The case did not settle. Further facilitated discussions are not expected. Mediation is complete.”

Harrell’s attorney, Andrea Justo, said she cannot comment on the content of the mediation discussions, as such proceedings are confidential.

“We now intend to focus our efforts in preparing for trial,” said Justo, of the San Jose-based Costanzo Law Firm.

Harrell’s lawsuit lists six specific causes of action against the city and police department: age discrimination, gender discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, failure to investigate or take corrective action, retaliation and Title VII retaliation.

The lawsuit initially named numerous individual defendants—including a former police chief and police officers—and listed many more allegations, some of them salacious. However, in recent months the complaint has been whittled down to its current length after attorneys for the city convinced the judge to dismiss earlier portions of the lawsuit.

Harrell, who is in her 50s, was fired from her job as a Gilroy police and fire dispatcher following an internal investigation into a complaint that she made racially insensitive remarks to a colleague and mistreated trainees, according to documents filed in court in relation to the lawsuit.

The city is represented in the Harrell case by attorneys from the Hirschfeld Kraemer firm, based in San Francisco.

The next proceeding scheduled in the lawsuit is a June 5 case management conference, Justo said.

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