Former Merced County sheriff's deputy claims he was fired because he's gay

mnorth@mercedsunstar.comMay 1, 2012 

A former Merced County sheriff's deputy is suing the department for sexual harassment, claiming he was fired because he's gay.

Ricardo Olguin was hired in 2008 and claims he was sexually harassed because of his sexual orientation until he was terminated in 2011, according to a complaint filed in San Francisco County Superior Court on Thursday.

The lawsuit details several instances when Olguin, 33, says he was harassed by others at the Sheriff's Department, but he claims his complaints to management went nowhere.

Deputy Tom MacKenzie, Sheriff's Department spokesman, said the agency doesn't comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit claims instances of harassment picked up in late 2009, when Olguin says he got to work and found his personal property vandalized with the word "homo" written on it with nail polish.

The lawsuit also claims Olguin was denied training because of his sexual orientation.

For example, the lawsuit claims that in 2010, Olguin inquired about joining the department's horse patrol unit:

"After his inquiry, plaintiff overheard another deputy telling a group of deputies that 'there's no way he is getting the mounted unit, this is the same guy that was a flight attendant before working here, right?' After much laughter, the deputy continued, 'Yeah, allow gay marriage so Olguin can marry a horse.' "

More incidents cited

The harassment continued, according to the complaint, and in December 2010, Olguin got to work to find the phrase "Aids Maggot" written on one of his business cards and taped to his locker.

The harassment didn't come only from within the department, according to the lawsuit. A few days after he found the derogatory phrase taped to his locker, he came across two California Highway Patrol officers while on the job.

"One of the officers said to the other, while looking directly at plaintiff, 'Nice jacket, look, it's the motor cop from the Village People,' " according to the complaint.

Olguin claims he ran into one of the officers the following night and was insulted by him again.

He said he made a formal complaint about the CHP officers to his supervisor, but nothing happened. Instead, Olguin was given an intent-to-terminate notice from the Sheriff's Department.

During an ensuing investigation, Olguin claims he left his house and saw that his truck had been vandalized with the words "fag," "snitch" and "You should have thought twice about ratting," written on his truck in green letters, according to the complaint.

Lawsuit seeks $5M

Olguin, who now lives in the Bay Area, said there are some deputies at the department who "get away with that stuff."

"I guess I'm disappointed mostly with the actions of the Sheriff's Department," he said. "I'm disappointed in the unequal treatment of employees."

Olguin said he and his attorney plan on going after about $5 million with the lawsuit for lost wages, emotional distress and other issues that have come from the episode. He described his time at the department as "hellish."

"It's sad that the Sheriff's Department hasn't evolved to what the rest of the state police agencies have," he said.

Olguin is still going through an arbitration process. He said if it's successful, he would consider returning to the Merced County Sheriff's Department to clear his name.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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