MERCED, Calif. — Ricardo Olguin is suing the Merced, Calif., County Sheriff’s Department for sexual harassment, claiming he was fired in 2011 because he is gay.
Merced County is in California’s Central Valley, and is located about 120 miles east-south-east of San Francisco. The region is primarily agricultural, with a population of 256,000.
Hired in 2008, Olguin’s suit claims harassment escalated in 2009, with personal property vandalized at the Sheriff’s Department. Items were defaced with nail polish, the word “homo” painted on them. He found one of his business cards taped to his locker, printed on it were the words “AIDS maggot.”
Olguin also claims he was denied training opportunities.
In one incident, after he inquired about joining the Department’s Mounted unit, he overheard a deputy allegedly telling a group of other 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.”
Oguin’s suit tells of insults from California Highway Patrol officers, and of no action taken when he filed complaints regarding the incidents. He also cites vandalism to his own vehicle while parked in front of his home overnight.
After filing complaints with the Merced County Sheriff’s Department, Oguin said that instead of taking action to remedy, or investigate the charges, in 2011 the department sent him an “intent to terminate” letter.
Deputy Tom MacKenzie, Sheriff’s Department spokesman, told the Merced Sun Star “the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.”
Olguin, who now resides in San Francisco Bay area, is suing the department for $5 million, for for lost wages, emotional distress and other issues that have come from the episode.
He described his time at the department as “hellish.”