The City of Atlanta will pay a former LGBT liaison for Atlanta police $140,000 to settle a federal lawsuit in which she claimed she was forced out of the job after complaining about anti-gay remarks aimed at her.
Dani Lee Harris, the second LGBT liaison for Atlanta police, was forced to take unpaid medical leave after suffering grand mal seizures in 2010. But the leave came days after she complained of anti-gay comments directed at her by an administrative assistant at the department. Her departure, and the agency's poor handling of it publicly, started a lengthy odyssey that left Harris' employment in limbo.
She filed the lawsuit in 2014 seeking a jury trial, back pay and lost benefits, reinstatement, damages and an injunction prohibiting Atlanta police from violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“People are hired on their merit, they perform their jobs on their merit,” Atlanta City Council member Michael Julian Bond tells Fox 5. “We have to live in a society where this type of ignorance and discrimination is simply not tolerated.”
A City Council committee has given initial approval of the $140,000 settlement, which the full council is expected to OK on Monday, according to Fox 5, which first reported the settlement on Friday.
Harris, employed by the department in code enforcement, declined to comment about the lawsuit on Monday until the settlement was finalized. An Atlanta police spokesperson also declined to discuss the lawsuit or settlement.
In the lawsuit, Harris said she faced anti-gay comments from Sandy Bradley, an administrative assistant at the department, on two occasions in 2010.
Ms. Bradley said to Plaintiff, “Why you gay, I don’t understand?” “you confused,” “why can’t you settle in with a man and get the same feelings or emotions from a heterosexual relationship,” “I want to tell you something Harris, I really like you, but what I don’t like about you is that you walk around here like a fucking man without a dick.”
Ms. Bradley also told Plaintiff that “if she ever had kids at the APD she would not be comfortable having her kids around” Plaintiff.
The day after the second incident, April 14, 2010, Harris suffered another grand mal seizure. Two days after that, she complained to human resources about Bradley's comments and was soon forced to take medical leave. During her leave, the lawsuit alleges, Harris “required only one accommodation to perform the essential function of her job – she could not drive a patrol car with the lights flashing.”
Harris returned to work in October 2010, a few weeks after supporters rallied to help her financially. Harris served as the LGBT liaison for Atlanta police for nearly five years, from November 2005 to April 2010, and was a grand marshal at the Atlanta Pride parade in 2009.
Earlier this year, Harris wrote a book about how police and the public should interact with one another. “Knowledge Is Power: What Everyone Should Know about the Police” can be purchased on her website.
UPDATE | The story was updated to include Harris' employment status with Atlanta police.