Former California Highway Patrol officer Jay Brome has received a settlement of $2.2 million in a lawsuit he brought against the CHP, saying his coworkers made his life on the job miserable because he's gay.
Brome was a CHP officer from 1996 until 2015, when he took medical leave due to the stress of the homophobia he encountered. It began when he was in the police academy and continued throughout his CHP career.
"There was bullying or name-calling -- 'fag,' 'gay,''' Brome told The Sacramento Bee in 2018. "I had an instructor that told me ... to take my skirt off and start acting like a man."
At one point at the academy, according to his lawsuit, a fellow cadet aimed a training gun at his head and said, "I know you're gay, tell me you're gay or I'll pull the trigger."
Once he became an officer, he had trouble getting his colleagues to provide backup at crime or accident scenes, putting him in dangerous and difficult situations. "I had four fatalities in Contra Costa County, and I was the only officer on scene. ... This is unheard of," he told the Bee in 2018. "I had to do the investigation, I had to worry about the body, I had to control the scene."
When he was named officer of the year in 2013, his photo was not displayed among those of others who'd received the honor. The abuse overall was so bad that he'd weep in his patrol car, and he even considered suicide.
He filed suit in Superior Court in California's Solano County in 2016, but a judge dismissed it two years later, saying it was past the statute of limitations. The suit was reinstated on appeal, and it was about to go to trial when the CHP and Brome's attorneys agreed to the settlement in July, according to a story published Thursday by the Bee. Brome has now received the money.
"I feel that I won justice," Brome told the paper last week. "And justice is not the outcome, it's the process." During deposition, he was able to detail all that he went through, he noted, adding that the settlement was "a huge relief."
"I am so happy for Jay Brome," one of his attorneys, Gay Grunfeld, said in the story. "He is one of the most resilient, hard-working, dedicated people I've ever had the opportunity to represent. He never gave up on this case. He sat through all these depositions where people said negative things about him. They couldn't do anything about his performance, which was superb, so some of the lieutenants and sergeants we deposed would try to say he was too reserved or other personal attacks."
The CHP declined comment to the Bee. The agency has no support group for LGBTQ+ employees and no ombudsman to monitor discrimination complaints, Grunfeld said. "I feel the $2.2 million sends a signal to the CHP that it needs to improve its investigations of employment discrimination allegations to hold more people accountable," she said.
Brome "loved the CHP," she added. "It was his dream, and he did everything he could do to make it better."
Brome now runs a used-clothing store, Pocket Monkey Vintage, in Benecia, Calif.