A racial harassment, discrimination and retaliation lawsuit has been filed against Stanislaus County, Sheriff Adam Christianson and other sheriff's office employees.
The lawsuit was filed by three former sheriff's office records department legal clerks and one current employee of the records department. In addition to Christianson, the lawsuit names Undersheriff William Heyne, sheriff's records department manager Sue Harper and Lt. Michael Radford, as well as other unnamed defendants.
Christianson could not be reached for comment. Heyne declined comment Monday. County Counsel John Doering said the county had not been served with the lawsuit as of Monday, and neither he nor county CEO Rick Robinson had seen the civil lawsuit.
The county was aware of the sheriff's office complaints before the lawsuit was filed, Doering said.
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"The county did conduct a complete investigation of all claims we were made aware of," Doering said. "We determined that none of them were supported. We are confident that no violation of the equal opportunity laws or county harassment policies have occurred."
Doering added that he would advise the sheriff's office defendants not to comment on the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, two of the women, Alejandra Arenivaz and Jackie Bernal, are Latinas, and the others, Charmaine Morad-Daniel and Marlena Younan, were born in Iran and Iraq, respectively.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants referred to the women in "racially, sexually or ethnically derogatory terms," denied them promotions and subjected them to retaliatory investigations, demotions and undesirable shifts and schedules when they filed complaints.
The lawsuit alleges that Heyne referred to Morad-Daniel as a "terrorist" on several occasions, and referred to people of Latino descent as "wet-----." Christianson had called Morad-Daniel and Bernal "bi-----," according to the lawsuit.
Harper and Radford conducted retaliatory investigations of the women, the lawsuit claims.
Arenivaz, Bernal and Younan felt forced to resign from the sheriff's office, according to the lawsuit. Morad-Daniel still is employed in the records department.
The lawsuit asks for compensation for lost wages and benefits, mental pain and anguish, emotional distress and punitive damages to be proven in court.
Jeffery M. Hubins, an attorney for the four women, said the situation started with Heyne referring to Morad-Daniel as a "terrorist." She filed a discrimination complaint and that "launched everything," Hubins said.
Bernal was interviewing for the records manager job at the time, and Christianson asked her what she would do about Morad-Daniel if she got the job, Hubins said. Bernal replied that Morad-Daniel was an excellent employee, according to Hubins.
The records manager's job went to Harper, and Bernal was subjected to harassment, Hubins said.
Younan was questioned because she was a friend of Morad-Daniel, and Arenivaz because she was a friend of Bernal's, according to Hubins.
When the women filed complaints under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, job conditions for the women deteriorated, Hubins said, and Arenivaz, Bernal and Younan felt forced to resign.
Morad-Daniel, a 35-year employee of the sheriff's office, has been assigned to a graveyard shift, Hubins said. The shifts are supposed to be assigned by seniority, he said, and Morad-Daniel had never worked a graveyard shift previously.
"If you opposed the sheriff, or were associated with people he considered hostile, he retaliated against you," Hubins said.
Hubins also represents Lydia Lopez, another sheriff's office records employee suing the county. Lopez is alleging that she was subjected to physical and verbal sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation by Lt. Bill Pooley.
Christianson said at the time that the Lopez lawsuit was "unfounded and baseless," and the county is contesting the lawsuit.
Hubins said the two lawsuits are unrelated.
Bernal sued the county 11 years ago, citing discrimination and racial harassment in the sheriff's office. That lawsuit was resolved with a confidential settlement, Hubins said.
Once county officials are served with the new lawsuit, they will have 30 days to file an answer.
Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2349.