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California court readies for deputy's ethnic discrimination case

Individuals sometimes have strong, negative beliefs about people from other countries that carry into a workplace. A Los Angeles employer can be guilty of ethnic discrimination when these personal opinions influence hiring decisions and the treatment of employees. Employers also are responsible for permitting unchecked discrimination among workers to foster a hostile environment.

A deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Department was terminated in 2010, after 20 years of employment. Court papers stated the man was fired for insubordination over an investigation into alleged misconduct. In a lawsuit against his former employer, the ex-deputy claimed he was the victim of discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

A complaint was filed in with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in June 2009, nearly a year before the deputy was fired. The Iranian-born employee stated he was denied promotions and worked in a hostile environment, where he was the subject of derogatory comments based on his national origin.

An EEOC decision on the complaint was still under consideration in early 2010 when the deputy was ordered to take administrative leave. The department accused the worker of taking an internal investigative report with the intent of using it to support a political candidate for sheriff. The EEOC issued a determination for the right to sue in late 2012; the employment lawsuit was filed in February 2013, followed by a request in by Lake County in April for a summary judgment.

A California federal judge ruled partially in favor of the county by dismissing failure to promote and retaliation charges. The judge felt a trial was warranted concerning civil rights violations over an ethnicity-based hostile work environment. A trial is scheduled this month.

It is illegal for employers to use ethnicity as an excuse to terminate workers or deny them jobs or advancement. An attorney can outline state and federal employment laws that protect workers from discrimination due to national origin.

Source:  Lake County News, "Former deputy's discrimination case against county set for trial in federal court" Elizabeth Larson, May. 30, 2014

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