Sheriff’s female employees harassed by office’s ‘boys club,’ according to lawsuit
June 9, 2010
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Single, female employees of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office have been targeted for discrimination by a “boys club” within the law enforcement agency, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week.
Sheriff’s Deputy Tanya Hunt filed the civil suit against the sheriff’s office, El Dorado County and five sheriff’s supervisors on May 3 for allegedly violating her civil rights and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
The suit seeks a jury trial and an unspecified amount in damages.
A voice mail left with El Dorado County Sheriff’s spokesman Bryan Golmitz requesting comment was not returned Tuesday.
In the suit, Hunt’s lawyer, Douglas Watts, says a culture exists within the sheriff’s office allowing male supervisors to discriminate against and harass female employees “who speak up for themselves, complain about discriminatory treatment, in some cases refuse unwanted sexual overtures, and otherwise refuse to play by the unofficial ‘rules’ established by their male superiors.”
The sheriff’s office has also failed to provide adequate help to female employees who have experienced traumatic events affecting their ability to work, according to the suit.
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Sheriff’s supervisors broke policy by not providing a grief-stricken Hunt with a mental evaluation to determine if she was ready to resume patrol duties following the murder of her mother, younger sister and stepfather in their Southern California home in September 2006, according to the suit.
Watts also points to the suicide of Deputy Melissa Meekma as evidence the sheriff’s office has a habit of not providing female employees with the same resources as male counterparts.
Meekma shot herself in her Placerville apartment in December 2008.
The deputy never recovered from a June 2007 shootout in Shingle Springs where deputies killed gunman Edward Mies, 35, according to the suit. Meekma, two other sheriff’s deputies and a police dog were injured in the gun battle.
Meekma’s suicide could have been prevented if sheriff’s supervisors followed policy in evaluating Meekma’s mental condition following the incident, “or at least treated her as well and attentively as they treat male members of the EDSO,” according to the suit.
Watts contends some members of the sheriff’s office began viewing Hunt as a problem following Meekma’s suicide and targeted her for termination.
Hunt’s separation from her husband in 2009 also led to unwanted sexual advances from a male deputy and exacerbated the harassment, according to the suit. Supervisors inappropriately denied Hunt’s meeting request with Sheriff Fred Kollar to talk about the advances, Watts said.
Following Meekma’s suicide, the breakup of Hunt’s marriage and her attempt to talk to Kollar about the unwanted sexual advances, supervisors allegedly attempted to “paper” Hunt’s personnel file with unfounded performance warnings, rejected reports she wrote and made “unwarranted, humiliating, intervention-type counseling sessions” with the deputy in an attempt to get her fired, according to the suit.
The defendants named in the case have until June 28 to respond to the complaint, according to court records.
An initial hearing date has not been set.