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Woman Claims Boss’s Retaliation Caused Her to Have a Stroke; Jury Awards her $3.2M

July 28, 2016 Wrongful Termination & Retaliation

Four female employees say they were targeted for complaining about their supervisor

Filing a complaint against a superior, especially one who is in an extremely powerful position, can be scary.

Even though the law offers protection from retaliation after making a complaint about unlawful activity, employees often fear that they’ll be fired or have to face other consequences that could make their working lives extremely unpleasant.

That’s what happened to four female police officers who took a stand against their supervisor. After being subjected to subtle and not-so-subtle retaliation, the women sued. Recently, the court awarded them a massive victory.

Let’s take a look at what happened in this case and then discus the many forms that unlawful retaliation may take.

Your Career Stops Here

Lt. Annica Hagadorn, the highest-ranking African-American female in the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, felt that her career had hit the proverbial “glass ceiling.”

She claims that she was repeatedly and unfairly passed over for opportunities for advancement that were extended toward other officers, so she filed a discrimination complaint.

After that, she says, her working life suddenly took a downturn. She was reassigned from her local patrol to a post at a jail that was two hours away. She was also subjected to two internal affairs investigations that threatened her career.

Hagadorn wasn’t alone. Three other female officers were undergoing similar treatment. Lt. Dawn Douglas, Deputy Jodi Mendonca and Sgt. Tracie Keillor had all complained about what they believed was an inappropriate relationship between their captain and another female officer.

After their complaints, they claim that they were targeted by the captain and other high-ranking officers.

Keillor was investigated for tampering with personnel records. She says that the stress of the investigation was so severe that it caused her to suffer a stroke even though she was otherwise healthy. She was later cleared of any charges related to the investigation.

The women jointly sued their employer. The Sheriff’s Department claimed that the employees’ assignment changes and investigations were the result of performance issues.

However, the jury sided with the female officers, awarding them a total of $3.57 million in damages.

Keillor, the officer who had suffered the stroke, will receive more than $3.2 million.

Mendonca was awarded $66,240 in lost earnings. Douglas was awarded more than $185,000 in lost earnings and emotional distress. Hagadorn was awarded $100,000 for emotional distress.

The Sheriff’s Department’s attempts to have the case retried were recently denied.

Many Forms of Retaliation

As this case shows, retaliation can come in many forms. Some retaliatory acts may be obvious, while others are more subtle.

The important phrase to consider is “adverse employment action.” That is the concept that the employer has changed the terms and conditions of the individual’s employment to create a negative impact after an employee has made a complaint. Some examples of adverse employment actions are:

  • Termination
  • Demotion
  • Denial of benefits
  • Modifying a schedule to one that is less-desirable
  • Denial of promotion or opportunities for career advancement
  • Reassignment to a less-desirable position or job location
  • Increased scrutiny of job performance

Contact the Murphy Law Group Now for a Free Consultation

If you feel you’re been retaliated against after making a complaint, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney who has experience fighting for employees’ rights.

Email us at, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.