Discrimination complaint filed against county

July 23, 2008

By KAREN VELIE

Eight Probation Department employees have filed a lawsuit against the county of San Luis Obispo claiming they were harassed and discriminated against because of their race and gender.

The plaintiffs, all Hispanic women, accuse the department of five causes of action including allegations of prejudice in promotions, training, workload, and supervisory requirements in the lawsuit.

Probations Department Human Resource Manager Antonia Herrera accuses the department’s Chief Probation Officer, Kim Barrett, of making racial slurs and condoning discriminatory and harassing conduct towards Hispanics. Herrera alleges she has overheard Barrett refer to Hispanic employees as “wacko” and “not smart enough to do their jobs,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed July 14, alleges harassment by Administrative Services Officer Michael O’Connell, and contends management has either ignored complaints, or labeled the conduct as “teasing.” At times, the lawsuit alleges, those complaining were threatened. A 2007 county investigation concluded that allegations of O’Connell’s harassment and intimidation of Hispanic women were true.

Nevertheless, upon the investigation’s conclusion, O’Connell was allowed to retain his position. Some of the women were offered transfers to other departments and threatened with disciplinary action if they discussed the investigation. According to the lawsuit, white employees were not given the same gag order.

“Neither Chief Barrett nor Wendy White (administrative services manager) ever reprimanded O’Connell for his flagrant disregard for the investigator’s findings, nor for his continued hostile conduct towards the complaining Hispanic women,” according to the lawsuit.

Barrett and O’Connell did not return requests for comment.

Attorney for the plaintiffs, Eric Woosley of Santa Barbara, detailed a list of job requirements based on race that include demannding that Hispanic workers call three supervisors when taking a day off and bring a doctors note upon return. White co-workers need call only one supervisor and need not bring proof of their ailment.

“This is one of the most pervasive discriminatory workplaces we have seen in hundreds of cases we have been involved in,” Woosley said. “It is considered a very large discrimination case.”

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages for loss of wages, promotional opportunities, and mental anguish.


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Stefan

By: Anonymous on 7/26/08

Misstrial~Thanks for your advice but I think Dateline has already covered Online Predators and many stories about Stalkers. Everyone knows why they are not posting their names. It's simple. Everyone else will know who they really are and what they wrote! When I mentioned racism hurts everyone I wasn't referring to the Lawsuit because that is all for a Judge to decide, I meant the racist comments posted by all the 'Anonymous' names or as you write people ensuring their 'personal protection.' Here we have an allegation of a Discrimination lawsuit and what do people do? They fire back with racist comments and words of hate-not to mention personal attacks on specific people. I agree when Ebullient said, "After reading the comments, I'm surprised by the amount of prejudice among uncoveredslo.com's readers…" This is not just someone's personal problem. We are a community and as a community we should be working together to do what's best for the people who are a part of it.

By: Anonymous on 7/26/08

What ever happened to the good old days when an employer could tell an employee that he wasn't doing a good job and then being able to fire them because of what they were not doing. Now it's called discrimination.

By: Anonymous on 7/26/08

Hi Kim!


Correction – sorry for the ommission of the word "not" in the following sentence – which I just added.


The reason why people use screen names/usernames/avatars on the internet is for personal protection and NOT due to cowardice as you implied.


~Misstrial

By: Anonymous on 7/26/08

Hi Kim!


The reason why people use screen names/usernames/avatars on the internet is for personal protection and due to cowardice as you implied.


If you use your real name, a maladjusted person who wants to stalk you either online or in your personal sphere, has a much easier time tracking you down if you post your real name.


Here is a site you may wish to visit – it is a site provided by the LA

County District Attorney's office.

http://www.lovemenot.org/default2.htm


One more thing: to accuse someone of racism is a very serious accusation. To do so seems to have become a casual thing, but it is actually quite serious and can be the basis for a defamation suit.


Take care,


~Misstrial


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 7/26/08

Misstrial~Thanks for your advice but I think Dateline has already covered Online Predators and many stories about Stalkers. Everyone knows why they are not posting their names. It's simple. Everyone else will know who they really are and what they wrote! When I mentioned racism hurts everyone I wasn't referring to the Lawsuit because that is all for a Judge to decide, I meant the racist comments posted by all the 'Anonymous' names or as you write people ensuring their 'personal protection.' Here we have an allegation of a Discrimination lawsuit and what do people do? They fire back with racist comments and words of hate-not to mention personal attacks on specific people. I agree when Ebullient said, "After reading the comments, I'm surprised by the amount of prejudice among uncoveredslo.com's readers…" This is not just someone's personal problem. We are a community and as a community we should be working together to do what's best for the people who are a part of it.

By: Anonymous on 7/26/08

What ever happened to the good old days when an employer could tell an employee that he wasn't doing a good job and then being able to fire them because of what they were not doing. Now it's called discrimination.

By: Anonymous on 7/26/08

Hi Kim!


Correction – sorry for the ommission of the word "not" in the following sentence – which I just added.


The reason why people use screen names/usernames/avatars on the internet is for personal protection and NOT due to cowardice as you implied.


~Misstrial

By: Anonymous on 7/26/08

Hi Kim!


The reason why people use screen names/usernames/avatars on the internet is for personal protection and due to cowardice as you implied.


If you use your real name, a maladjusted person who wants to stalk you either online or in your personal sphere, has a much easier time tracking you down if you post your real name.


Here is a site you may wish to visit – it is a site provided by the LA

County District Attorney's office.

http://www.lovemenot.org/default2.htm


One more thing: to accuse someone of racism is a very serious accusation. To do so seems to have become a casual thing, but it is actually quite serious and can be the basis for a defamation suit.


Take care,


~Misstrial


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 7/26/08

I am new to this petty finger pointing but why is everyone using fake or 'anonymous' for names? Step it up. If you are going to make some point 'you' think is valid or make your racist comments, don't forget your name-Mrs. Herrera didn't. She wasn't afraid to stand up, speak up and remember lawsuit isn't JUST about race. It clearly says: DISCRIMINATION. Need the definition? Prejudice based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age or disability. So stop hiding behind your pretend names and throwing your racial daggers out. Racism hurts everyone.

By: Anonymous on 7/26/08

dear Mr. Turn the tables, white people have as much right to file discrimination suits as anyone else. If they have a valid case and can prove discrimination, then more power to them.


As for "Been there before" just because you have witnessed two lawsuits filed by Hispanics that were not upheld does not mean this lawsuit is bogus. When you generalize that any suit filed by Hispanics is bogus and without merit are you not being the very definition of racism.


people seem to quickly assume the case is unfounded since it was filed by Hispanics. Would the reaction be the same if it were filed by caucasions, blacks or Asians. This kind of kneejerk reaction only exemplifies the culture of discrimination that exists in this county.

By: Anonymous on 7/26/08

I have lived in several communities in California but it took coming to SLO County to see racism in all it's glory. All that is missing are the hoods. And I'm a Caucasian. Viva La Raza

By: Anonymous on 7/26/08

When are the white employees going to start to file discrimination cases? They did at the Atascadero Police Department and nothing happened.

Buenos Dias.

By: Anonymous on 7/25/08

Begging to differ—with MR. GORDON

this isn't some the result of some sociological reaction to a changing population dynamic.

This is solely the one person's, Herrera's incompetence, influence and lies that have been motivated by her greed and a long seated need to be looked up to by other Hispanics. Regretably, she has led this others into a very tangled web in support of her.

By: Anonymous on 7/25/08

"'Learn to be selective when you hire.'"


Not "racist" actually.


"Been there before" was posting about performing a background check prior to hiring. Professional companies do this all the time and is something you give your authorization by signature when asked to do so as part of the interview/selection process.


Part of the selection process often involves a civil (and criminal) litigation check that will show whether or not that person has been declared a "Vexatious Litigant" by either a Federal or State Judge or if that person has been a plaintiff or defendant in a number of civil complaints.


This is not "racist" but done to protect the company and its employees from potentially frivolous litigation.


Companies can be sued for failure to properly investigate an employee prior to hiring.


~Misstrial


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 7/25/08

"Learn to be selective when you hire."


RACIST!

By: Anonymous on 7/25/08

I am very skeptical about the validity of this law suit. I have seen hispanic's file suit like this before. In both cases the suit was bogus and based on the hispanic's believing they were privledged. If you layoff a hispanic they claim its racisum. If you get tired of them taking advantage and require doctors notes, it's racisum. If you drug test them its racisum. Like I said, I've seen this happen twice before and was uphauled that they managed to get a pro-bono attorney to harrass the companies they had worked for. If you don't want to put up with this kind of crap make sure you do a back ground check to see how the candidate has performed in the past elsewhere. I have seen where this type of group will band together and then confirm each others lies without one single bit of proff. Its called the more the merrier. Learn to be selective when you hire.

By: Anonymous on 7/25/08

Welcome to California!


As the La Raza movement gains strength with the growing Hispanic population in SLO County you will see more of these types of lawsuits. The only reason you have not seen them until now is that few Hispanics applied for county jobs and even fewer were hired.


Now you have more of them in the county's work force and you have some of them with a chip on their shoulder.


You also have some white county workers who resent them and the hostility cannot be contained, so problems like this are cropping up.


Just a sign of the times..


By: Anonymous on 7/25/08

My guess from reading this article is that the employees in question had been abusing their sick leave and thus their supervisors were requiring them to provide a doctors note when they called in sick. The county can require every employee to bring a sick note from a doctor, but they generally don't require it unless their is some suspicion the employee is abusing sick leave. A check of these employees' timecards will reveal if there is a pattern of sick leave abuse.


I stand by my earlier statement about setting one standard of acceptible work performance and then holding everybody to it, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, political persuation, or personal affiliations.


Let the matter go to court and if the employees were wronged the county can pay them a settlement and then the Board of Supervisors should insist on changes to prevent this from happening again.


BUT, IF THE JURY RULES IN FAVOR OF THE COUNTY THE COUNTY SHOULD REQUEST THE COURT FORCE THE EMPLOYEES PAY THE COUNTY'S ATTORNEYS FEES!


This will also help to discourage frivalous claims made by marginal employees…


By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

You can't spell SelLOut without SLO.


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

Atticus- to correct you the County's investigation did NOT find harassment by the Chief.


The Truth-You know whats up!


W. Smith- If the lawyers said it, it must be so! Not that they have anything to gain from this. 33%? 40%? more?


AH has probably led some of these other staff into this with her lies. Her allegations have been investigated by an outside party and she has had many chances to resolve things. She has chosen to take a route that she hopes will be a lucrative one for her. The lawsuit is just another part of this process that has been going on since last fall. Because of state and county rules the employee can say and sue any one and anything they want in these situations while the county and the staff who supervised them have to remain mute. It will be a one sided flow of accusations for awhile, which some people on here, and elsewhere I suppose, like to buy into.


If you believe in Justice, wait till both sides can be heard.


By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

As a member of the community I am appalled by what people are posting. It is obvious that some of you must be Probation employees or connected to the county but yet you don't leave your name…why? Scared? I agree when one post stated 'It will be up to a jury' and until then, leave it alone. At least Antonia Herrera (her name changed when she got married) and the other people aren't hiding behind a fake name on a website. Lastly, if all the allegations were completely false, why would there even be a case and why would everyone be so defensive?

The quote from the attorneys doesn't look like things will end on good terms. “This is one of the worst cases of department-wide discrimination that we have ever seen,” the plaintiffs' attorney Eric A. Woosley, of Santa Barbara, said. “This complaint only scratches the surface of the attitude of those in power in San Luis Obispo towards the Hispanic population,” said Woosley's partner, Jordan Porter. "We expect this to be one of the largest racial discrimination verdicts in San Luis Obispo history."

Those of you who can't do anything but put-down these women think about at least they are taking a stand and not doing it as "Anonymous" and leave the decision to the Judge.

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

Let's get to the bottom line here people! Antonia Hamptom aka Herrera, (nice name change by the way) has a rich history of reverse racism and supporting people just because they are hispanic! She was also a huge supporter of John Lum, the former head of probation who should have never been hired in the first place. How does he kiss Antonia? Yes we know, so don't freak.


Antonia is someone you should fear because she will call you a racist if you don't go along with what she wants. She has a history of supporting hispanic people who simply are not qualified to do the job. Antonia has always had difficulty working well with others because she has that giant hispanic chip on her shoulder. Antonia, your bid for County Supervisor did not fail because you are hispanic, it failed because most people know you really are an idiot and are a nightmare to work with. KiM Barret is a saint for having put up with you and your followers crap for this long.


Please do us all a favor and leave the County. I'm sure Lum has a place in his home for you.


Finally, the Truth be told!

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

(07-22) 22:28 PDT San Francisco — The last illegal immigrant juvenile offender who had been in a $7,000-a-month group home as part of San Francisco's now-abandoned effort to shield young immigrants from deportation has bolted, authorities said Tuesday. The youth walked away from the unlocked center in Atascadero (San Luis Obispo County) on Monday, bringing to 12 the number of illegal immigrant offenders in the past month who have fled from youth homes hundreds of miles from the city. Ten of the 12, all of them from Honduras and all detained for dealing drugs, are still at large, including the youth who disappeared early Monday.


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

Amen to Old Chief.

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

I can not beleive the amount of racism and downright stupidity displayed in many of the below postings. Yes there are frivolous lawsuits, but when employees have tried to resolve a corrupt management system through the proper channels and have gotten nowhere, then sometimes a lawsuit is the only way of shaking up the status quo and getting some change. To take that right from employees or deny them union representation or suggest that any employye who complains about management should be fired, is ludicrous. Do we not live in America and are availed of certain constitutional rights. We no longer live in the dark ages where managers and employers could treat staff any way they wanted without fear of reprisal.

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

Once two indian braves came of age to go on a quest to bring nowledge back to their tribe. They each went separate ways around a mountain.


The first brave met an old chief of another tribe and asked him how his people were. The chief said,"Well, how are your people?" The brave replied that they are miserable people. The Cieh same," You will find the same thing here."


The second brave later met the chief and asked him,"How are the people of your tribe?" The Chief asked,"Well, how are the people of yours?" The brave said his people are loving caring people, and the chief replied, "You will find the same of my tribe."


You see, the chief knew that you would see in others, that which you saw in yourself and therefore would gravitate towards people who are like you.


A positive attitude is contageous.

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

"Atticus":


Coming up with the allegation that there must be racism somewhere, someplace, which I reference by your phrases, "hidden prejudice" "contrasting quotes" "nakedly racist"….appears to me that there is also a "small slice" of the population that makes blanket accusations against others with the same vigor that the employees mentioned in the article are engaging in possibly frivolous litigation.


Are you unable to accept the reality that a person may be disliked or avoided for reasons other than race? Is that OK with you or do you feel the need to compel EVERYONE to associate with whomever you or New Times dictates?


Race baiting and accusations of racism are now being pulled out and utilized against an entire ethnic group in this country simply for the political convenience of certain candidates (such as Obama) and their spouses (who also happen to have a 20-year attendance record at a racist, hate-filled "church.")


My husband has a term for people who lay on the racism label on all caucasians: he calls them 'white-outs' (like the correction fluid) – white persons who hate other white people and who enjoy making the "racist" catcall against members of their own ethnic group.


As far as the action the Hispanic women have entered into against the County, I would prefer that a jury decide the matter.


The poster who suggested that a detailed record be kept in order to engage in discipline against employees, offered us the best solution. Why supervisors failed to keep a log or other record of work-related problems is a mystery that should be revealed during trial.


btw, to the poster who wondered why lawsuits cannot be avoided by negotiation/mediation: California courts require the parties to try to resolve their differences through mediation prior to trial.


~Misstrial


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

Atticus you make some good points, but please don't place me in the same catagory as others. I don't place you in any catagory. I have honest opinions along with you. No need to be antagonistic. Opinions are as diverse as the population (although apparently not in SLO County). Just an opinion….

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

"IT seems odd to me that this person could not find one 'link' willing to help her in her complaint"


In which world does this happen? Organizations routinely suppress complaints and punish complainants, which is why there are (often ineffective) whistleblower laws and many legal fights in this area, not all of which are frivolous nuisance suits. Shooting the messenger is human nature, and people bringing a legitimate complaint of any sort often fight a terrible uphill battle. (Have we ever seen "60 Minutes"?)


"I am married to a 100 percent Hispanic and my spouse has NEVER encountered racism or demeaning treatment of any sort in SLO or anywhere in California."


Glad to hear it, but you might read some of the lovely comments here or a New Times piece awhile back that included a lot of contrasting quotes from locals. It's better now than when I was a kid, but in some ways prejudice is just hidden. And while the immigration issue is complicated, a small slice of the anti-immigration crowd is nakedly racist.

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

Apparently, Atticus feels there is "widespread and insideous" "prejudice against Hispanics" in this county.


Wrong. I am married to a 100 percent Hispanic and my spouse has NEVER encountered racism or demeaning treatment of any sort in SLO or anywhere in California.

I consider myself to be sensitive and when we are together, neither have I ever felt judged or slighted due to my obvious relationship.


Neither have our 3 children who are 50/50.


I have asked each of my children if they are treated well at school (Laguna and SLO HS) and each of them has told me things "just rock."


Atticus: go back on your 1960's "guilt trip." The rest of us have moved on.

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

How sad that we have come to the point of consistent, frivolous, unneeded lawsuits to settle any type of problem, whether it be racial discrimination, gender, sexual orientation, etc. What happened to just trying to settle things out of court?! I find it sad that there is ALWAYS the threat of a lawsuit over ANY thing (remember the lady and the cup of hot coffee?!) Good God – have some common sense. The chain of command is just that – a chain. Follow the links. IT seems odd to me that this person could not find one "link" willing to help her in her complaint without threat of lawsuits. Maybe she should seek employment elsewhere.


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

There are always two sides to every story, we should do well to remember that before rushing to any judgements.


I agree the county needs to develop some backbone with regards to substandard employees.


First they need supervisors who will document problems with employees so they can build a work history that will justify progressive discipline.


Second they need managers that will back the supervisors in the accomplishment of this mission.


Finally they need department heads who will drop the hammer on sub-standard employees, regardless of their skin color, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or personal connections…


Only then will these types of incidents cease. Either because the county has gotten rid of harassing employees, or because they have gotten rid of sub-standard employees who always run to the unions for protection when they feel the heat..

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

ebullient: "After reading the comments, I'm surprised by the amount of prejudice among uncoveredslo.com's readers…"


Is it that surprising? A lot of people move to this area or remain here to avoid people who're different from them — folks of the sort who're better represented elsewhere. White flight and rural racism is one of SLO's dirty secrets.


Who knows whether this lawsuit is warranted, though the county investigation did find harassment. But overall, prejudice against Hispanics is widespread and insidious — especially since it gets far less press than that against African-Americans — and one assumes it's especially bad in SLO County. And even if the harassment wasn't particularly racially-motivated, it's not unreasonable for a target of it to see it that way.

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

Diversity = Affirmative Action!

This diversity crap has gone far enough. Everyone but the few remaining American indians are from some place else. Deal with it.

If the tax supported agencies are not hiring the most qualified candidates then we are getting screwed.

The county is broke and the state is broke. Wake up!

The county needs to learn and practice 2 words: You're Fired".

When they start doing that these problems and false lawsuits brought by slime ball pathetic diversity freaks will stop.

I have had about enough of this crap!

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

Yet more trough feeding, teat suckling, useless scroungers scamming the system and the tax payers for every dollar they can get their pudgy, grubby little hands on.

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

Dig a little deeper and you will find this is not her first complaint, nor will you find she is a victim. Herrera has a history of divide and conquor. She has a posse of minions and a little latina mafia. Find out how many women they themselves have harrassed. Ask how many lawsuits there are in the county due to her and her behavior towards others. Find out what relationship she had with her superior who is no longer with the department. Find out how stupid the department was to not fire her sooner. Find out why there might have been conditions for so called medical absences. She hurt her foot and was out a year. She could do just about anything but work, and we paid her for it, and paid into her pension. She is and has always been worthless, at the very best. This has nothing to do with race and everything to do with incompetence and living a life as a hater. The county would be wise to let her take them to court rather then settle, which is what she is hoping for, where she will lose, and then seek reimbursement from her for this frivilous lawsuit.

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

After reading the comments, I'm surprised by the amount of prejudice among uncoveredslo.com's readers…


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 7/24/08

It is sad to think you need diversity to equal non-racist. We are a primarily a white county in a diverse state. I for one, an old time whitey, find the probation department actions appalling.

By: Anonymous on 7/23/08

What do you expect when there are 5 men on the Board of Supervisors? Until there is more diversity on the Board and in county management, and the good old boy system is disbanded, expect to read of these stories.

By: Anonymous on 7/23/08

I find it interesting the women file suit the very week the BOS proclaims the week July 13-19 "Probation, Parole and Community Supervision Week". Kim Barrett was highly praised for her outstanding work. Hmmm

By: Anonymous on 7/23/08

7 mexican women…

Really? Who's surprised?

This rediculaous. They should have been fired. America is losing her backbone.

I hope they get bupkis.c4f94

By: Anonymous on 7/23/08

Maybe we should vote on binding arbitration.

By: Anonymous on 7/23/08

Surprised not,

The Mayor and City Council dont work for the County.

Just thought you should know.

By: Anonymous on 7/23/08

No silly, Jack is the brother of Michael Meoff

By: Anonymous on 7/23/08

Disgusted, I totally agree.

These bottom feeders with their bogus law suits need to shut their mouths and remember what their pay grade is.

The last thing we need is more draw on our taxes.

And .. Hey S-not, your right, shame on Copeland for making a smart business deal and wanting to build something when everyone else is taking their money out of state. Where there any higher or better offers? Not.

By: Anonymous on 7/23/08

Is Michael related to Jack?

By: Anonymous on 7/23/08

What is it with San Luis Obispo County? We need the clean house, starting with the Mayor and city council who are responsible for some of the worst decision-making (Copeland Chinatown giveaway)in SLO's history right on down the line.

By: Anonymous on 7/23/08

Sad to say, but why does this NOT surprise me?


Once again the taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill.