$100K settles case against Kauai police

LIHUE — The Kauai Police Department will pay $100,000 to settle a case alleging retaliation against a police sergeant who claimed she was sexually harassed. 

The U.S Employment Opportunity Commission said the sergeant filed discrimination charges alleging she became the target of several internal affairs investigations after she reported the harassment.

“I’m pleased with the agreement especially because the Kauai Police Department actively worked with us to implement methods to make sure workers are protected from discrimination, harassment and retaliation,” EEOC Honolulu Office Director Glory Gervacio Saure said.

The ruling comes around a year after EEOC filed letter of determination on April 25, 2014, stating there was reason to believe the police department retaliated against Sgt. Darla Abbatiello-Higa, who has been with the KPD for three decades. The agreement was signed Monday by Saure.

Sgt. Darla Abbatiello-Higa said her supervisors filed complaints against her in retaliation for a sexual harassment claim she made against Chief Ale Quibilan in 2012.

“I am pleased at that Federal EEOC conciliation process produced a settlement and my client is happy to be returning to her regular post,” Abbatiello-Higa’s attorney Dan Hempey wrote in a statement.

The County of Kauai settled another lawsuit with Abbatiello-Higa in 2006 for $980,000 when she alleged harassment and demonstration while being under the protection of the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Monday’s agreement states the KPD will clear the officer’s record of all investigations that were lodged against her as a result of her claims about sexual harassment.

The KPD will also revise its policies against discrimination, harassment and retaliation and hire an outside equal opportunity consultant to conduct training on anti-discrimination laws to the KPD’s management and non-management employees.

The EEOC will monitor the department’s compliance with the agreement which will remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2018, according to the agreement.

The EEOC was unable to investigate claims about sexual harassment because the officer didn’t file the allegations within the EEOC’s requirement of 300 days from the last discriminatory act, the EEOC said.

“It’s important that we reiterate that no individual was found responsible of wrongdoing in this case,” county attorney Mauna Kea Trask said. “As a result of the EEOC’s investigation, the County of Kauai welcomes this opportunity to update our policies and move forward.”

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