Mediation in former cop’s case

A civil lawsuit has been filed against the National City Police Department. The case, Ashley Cummins vs. The City of National City, The National City Police Department, and DOES 1-50 alleges that Cummins is filing for damages for a Hostile Work Environment, Disparate Treatment Discrimination (Sex/Gender/Sexual Orientation), Disparate Impact Discrimination, Retaliation, and Failure to Prevent Discrimination and Harassment.

Cummins is represented by Hogue & Belong.

In the court filing, Cummins is asking for judgement against the defendants as follows:
For a jury trial. For general damages. For special compensatory damages including loss of past, present, and future earnings and benefits in a sum to be determined according to proof at time of trial. For punitive damages. For prejudgment and post-judgment interest at the legal rate pursuant to law. For costs of suit. For reasonable attorney’s fees and any other applicable statutory provision, and for such other relief as the Court may deem proper. Cummins demanded trial by jury. The case is set for mediation on Sept. 5.
Hogue & Belong Senior Attorney Associate Julie Kearns, Esq., said this case is an unfortunate situation.

“Ms. Cummins was hired at the NCPD in 2018 after an accomplished eight-year career with the St. Louis police department,” she said. “Highly regarded. High performer. College educated. Came to California to be closer to family. Got hired by the NCPD in 2018, and immediately started witnessing harassment and discrimination, bullying, primarily based on her gender/sexual orientation, and the culture of the NCPD again became obvious to Ms. Cummins at the beginning in terms of the derogatory treatment, comments, and humiliation of women.”

Kearns said this was not happening the same with men, and that Cummins was not the only one suffering from this same type of treatment.

“In 2020, when she was assigned to a particular squad, the D Squad, she began to experience this discrimination more and on a more personal level.

“She was continually belittled in front of her other officers, humiliated, put down, excluded to the point where it was not just social. It crossed into work opportunity,” she said. “She was chilled as we say in the legal world, discouraged. It was futile for her to make any complaints because she had seen that complaints were futile. They do not go anywhere. Nobody investigates. Nobody cures. Nobody has made anything better. She tried to complain to her supervisors to no avail. Of course, she was targeted even further. She became withdrawn within the department to try to avoid the harassment and discrimination that she experienced every time she opened her mouth around her male counterparts. Men that should have been her colleagues. Finally, it simply became too much for her and she was forced to resign after great suffering in 2022, and she continues to greatly suffer.”

In the complaint, it states that from March 2020 to January 2021, Cummins was repeatedly the target of mistreatment by the male officers in her squad, led primarily by Officer Murry Estabrook with the following allegations.

Estabrook humiliating Ms. Cummins by instructing her to leave immediately after arriving on the scene of a crime, without any justification.

Estabrook yelling at Ms. Cummins on the radio (several times in front of her superiors) without justification.

Estabrook purposefully excluding Ms. Cummins from team bonding events and dinners with other male officers by not inviting her.

Estabrook rolling his eyes in response to Ms. Cummins and glaring at her menacingly.

Estabrook exposing Ms. Cummins to a life-threatening situation by deliberately failing to search a homicide suspect for weapons per protocol, and not telling Ms. Cummins that he had broken protocol.

“Throughout her employment with Defendants, Ms. Cummins has incurred a toxic, male-dominated environment, where she is frequently exposed to the male officers making constant inappropriate sexual and derogatory comments about the women they were dating and the other female officers. The bullying and harassment were a result of the culture at NCPD that expected male officers to excel above female officers and expected female officers to be submissive to their male counterparts. In fact, many of the male officers and supervisors indicated that if female officers wanted to fit in at NCPD, they either needed to be submissive to the male officers or sleep with them. For instance, many of the male officers, including Ms. Cummins supervising officers, would indicate that in order for female officers to feel like they fit in at NCPD they would either have to be submissive to the male officers or sleep with them. Ms. Cummins would often hear her supervisors… frequently call and refer to certain female officers as ‘sluts’ and state that they are ‘so incompetent, they were only promoted because they spread their legs.’ Other male officers referred to female officers who would not sleep with male officers as … ‘lesbians’ and made numerous lesbian jokes. If female officers did not act submissive to their male peers or if they excelled at their job, they were seen as a threat and retaliated against.”

Kearns said as the discovery phase proceeded they uncovered more information that bolstered Cummins’ assertion.

“Without a doubt, discovery has discovered additional facts in support of her claim,” Kearns said.

Kearns said mediation is an alternative dispute resolution highly encouraged by the courts.

A mediator is agreed on by both parties, in this case in the field of employment law, and that information in mediation is confidential to encourage the free flow of information to try and solve the matter prior to going to trial.

“The mediator reads the brief from the parties, each side, multiple parties in this case with both the police department and the City,” she said. “With the guidance of this experienced mediator, which we pay for, this is a process is an attempt to resolve the case prior to the financial expense and also the mental toll this is taking on Ms. Cummins, to try to avoid and get it over quite frankly. And I say this with all due respect of the facts. With the guidance of the mediator, we start talking about potential settlement. Confidential communications that cannot be used in litigation in the future. It is to get all the parties at the table and a meet a resolution, a settlement prior to having to proceed to trial.”
Kearns said it is standard that a plaintiff must make a jury demand to preserve the right for a jury trial.

“While it is necessary to preserve our rights, that is what we always have in mind,” she said. “We are a plaintiff counsel. We investigated this case. We vigorously represent Ashley as our client. If what is needed is to go to trial, that is always on our mind. But again, we want to consider if at this point, the defendants are willing to make a reasonable offer, and we are willing to discuss this at this point. But our eye is always if we need to go to trial, that is where we will go. To a jury.”