Donald F. Eslinger, Sheriff, Seminole County, FL – Sex Discrimination.

Donald F. Eslinger, Sheriff, Seminole County, FL – Sex Discrimination.

Sex discriminationIN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE EIGHTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR SEMINOLE COUNTY, FLORIDA

TANIA INGRAM,

Plaintiff,

v. CASE NO.:

DONALD F. ESLINGER, SHERIFF,
SEMINOLE COUNTY, FLORIDA,

Defendant.
______________________ /

COMPLAINT AND DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

Plaintiff, TANIA INGRAM (hereinafter “INGRAM”), by and through her undersigned counsel, sues Defendant, DONALD F. ESLINGER, SHERIFF, SEMINOLE COUNTY, and alleges as follows:
1. This action is brought to obtain relief for discrimination committed by Defendant against Plaintiff on the basis of Plaintiff’s sex, race and national origin and for retaliation.
2. This is an action for damages that exceed $15,000.00, exclusive of costs, interest, and attorney’s fees.
3. The unlawful employment practices alleged below were committed within Seminole County, Florida.
4. Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a Deputy Sheriff from 1999 until her termination on August 12, 2004.
5. Plaintiff resides in Seminole County, Florida, and has at all times material herein, resided in Seminole County, Florida.
6. Defendant, SHERIFF ESLINGER, is the elected Sheriff of Seminole County, Florida.
7. Plaintiff Ingram is a Hispanic female of Puerto Rican decent.
8. Plaintiff has retained the undersigned attorney and agreed to pay a
reasonable fee.
9. On or about October 5, 2004, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (attached hereto as Exhibit “A”) alleging discrimination based on race, sex and national origin discrimination and retaliation.
10. More than one hundred eighty (180) days have passed since Plaintiff’s Charge of Discrimination was filed with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, and the Florida Commission on Human Relations has not entered a determination on Plaintiff’s claims.
11. Plaintiff has exhausted her administrative remedies prior to bringing this action.
12. Plaintiff has complied with all conditions precedent prior to bringing this action.
13. At all times, Plaintiff performed all of the duties assigned to her in a professionally competent manner, faithfully followed all reasonable instructions given to her by her supervisors, and abided by all the rules and regulations of Defendant.

COUNT I
HARASSMENT AND HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT BASED ON RACE AND NATIONAL ORIGIN

14. This is an action for damages for race and national origin discrimination in violation of Chapter 760, Florida Statutes, The Florida Civil Rights Act.
15. Plaintiff realleges and incorporates Paragraphs 2 through 13 of this Complaint as if set forth in full herein.
16. Plaintiff was subjected to harassment and a hostile work environment based on her race and national origin by her immediate supervisor, a law enforcement officer holding the rank of Sergeant with Defendant.
17. In June 2003, the Sergeant started on Plaintiff’s shift as her supervisor and he constantly harassed Plaintiff based on her race and national origin.
18. The Sergeant would make derogatory remarks related to Plaintiff being a Puerto Rican on almost a daily basis. The Sergeant would make comments such as “How’d your family get here? Did they swim? What kind of raft did they get here on?” The Sergeant told Plaintiff she didn’t know how to read and write, because she was Puerto Rican. He also called Plaintiff a stupid Puerto Rican and told her not to take the Sergeant’s test. He even told her that she was a piece of shit deputy.
19. The Sergeant also told members of the public not to speak to Plaintiff because she did not speak English. Plaintiff speaks English and Spanish.
20. Because of the severity of the conduct to which Plaintiff was subjected, the frequency of the conduct, the threatening and humiliating nature of the conduct and because the conduct unreasonably interfered with Plaintiff’s job performance it altered the terms and conditions of Plaintiff’s employment; and therefore created a discriminatorily abusive and hostile work environment.
21. The hostile work environment created by Plaintiff’s supervisor was greatly exacerbated due to the fact that the office of the Sheriff of Seminole County, Florida is a law enforcement agency charged with upholding the laws of the State of Florida and which is operated as a paramilitary type of organization. Plaintiff was harassed by a senior officer who had substantial power and authority over her on a day-to-day basis, and who had the power to discipline her and adversely affect her career. Furthermore, Plaintiff made the next senior officer in the workplace, a Lieutenant, aware of the harassment that she was being subjected to on a number of occasions. The Lieutenant failed to take appropriate prompt remedial action to cause a cessation of the hostile work environment to which Plaintiff was being subjected.
22. Plaintiff did not encourage, welcome or consent to the harassment to which she was subjected.
23. The Defendant failed to exercise reasonable care to protect his employees from harassment and a hostile work environment based on race and national origin by failing to promulgate, implement and disseminate to his employees an effective anti-harassment policy; and by his failure to properly educate, train and direct his management level personnel in the identification, reporting and proper handling of race and national origin harassment complaints, including the protection of the victim of harassment based on race and national origin who came forward with complaints.
24. Defendant had actual and constructive notice of the harassment described in this Complaint because such harassment was pervasive and obvious, and was in fact, perpetrated by a supervisory employee, who held the rank of Sergeant. Furthermore, the harassment was reported to a senior officer, a Lieutenant in the Sheriff’s office chain of command.
25. Plaintiff’s complaint was documented by the Lieutenant in Plaintiff’s chain of command, who was going to monitor the situation and follow up with her at three (3) and six (6) month intervals. However, the follow up did not occur.
26. Several days after Plaintiff made the complaint to the Lieutenant, the Sergeant stopped talking to her. Plaintiff was then informed by another deputy that she was ungrateful and had crossed the blue line and that the Sergeant was going to put her out of a job by the end of the year. Plaintiff reported the threat to the Lieutenant, who told her to just let it be.
27. After making her complaint to the Lieutenant, Plaintiff continued to experience discriminatory treatment from the Sergeant. Plaintiff also made additional complaints to the Lieutenant from November 2003 to February 2004. However, no action was taken regarding her complaints.
28. Plaintiff attended a training class for a week from February 9, 2004 to February 13, 2004 as part of her duties with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. It was a normal practice for deputies who attended a weeklong class to have the weekend off so they will not work seven days in a row. Plaintiff had originally been scheduled to work the weekend after the weeklong training class. At the end of the week Plaintiff checked with the Sergeant regarding whether or not she was still assigned to work over the weekend. The Sergeant informed her in a profanity-ridden response that she was going to work that weekend.
29. Plaintiff made a complaint to the Lieutenant regarding the response from the Sergeant and she was told by the Lieutenant to be more humble. Plaintiff also complained to the Lieutenant that he was not doing his job if he continued to let the Sergeant treat women and minorities in a discriminatory manner.
30. On February 15, 2004, several days after Plaintiff made the complaint to the Lieutenant, the Sergeant searched her patrol car. While this search was related to a missing evidence issue, the search of the patrol car also included a search of Plaintiff’s purse and gym bag in which her belongings were strewn all over the ground. Plaintiff did not receive proper notice before being sent home that day without pay in violation of the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights. Plaintiff was also interviewed by the Sergeant and Lieutenant without being tape recorded in violation of the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights on February 27, 2004.
31. On March 4, 2004, Plaintiff was suspended by the Sheriff pending administrative review regarding the missing evidence issue. On April 6, 2004, Plaintiff received a Notice of Proposed Discipline dated March 26, 2004. Plaintiff wrote a response to the notice of Proposed Discipline on April 9, 2004. In her response Plaintiff discussed the discriminatory treatment that she had received from the Sergeant and the complaints that she had made regarding the Sergeant to the Lieutenant and the lack of follow up on her complaints.
32. Defendant failed to take prompt remedial action in response to Plaintiff’s complaints regarding the harassment and hostile work environment to which Plaintiff was subjected.
33. Approximately six (6) months after Plaintiff’s complaint regarding the harassment and hostile work environment was first noted by the Lieutenant, Defendant, Sheriff Eslinger, ordered an investigation into the Plaintiff’s complaints of harassment and hostile work environment.
34. On April 9, 2004, an Administrative Investigation was ordered by the Sheriff regarding the discriminatory treatment that Plaintiff received from the Sergeant. However, the Sergeant was allowed to continue working until May 4, 2004, when he was suspended pending further review. Plaintiff’s suspension pending administrative review began on March 4, 2004, the date her administrative review was authorized, while the Sergeant continued working for one (1) month after his administrative review was authorized. Plaintiff’s suspension also continued throughout the administrative review of the Sergeant.
35. On May 4, 2004, the same day the Sergeant was suspended, Plaintiff’s administrative review was reopened and an evidence audit was requested on Plaintiff for the entire five (5) years that she had worked for the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. While audits were also performed on several other deputies, the other deputies were not audited for more than one (1) year and the other deputies were not audited from their date of hire. Additionally, deputies that were audited were assigned to different districts that had a lower volume of calls than the district Plaintiff was assigned to.
36. Other male and non-Hispanic deputies who have had issues regarding evidence have not had their cars and personal belongings searched nor have they been sent home without pay without proper notice. Additionally, other male and non-Hispanic deputies who have been disciplined for evidence handling issues have not been audited as Plaintiff was. Other male and non-Hispanic deputies who have had evidence handling issues were disciplined but were not terminated as Plaintiff was.
37. As a result of the investigation the Sheriff made a finding that the Sergeant violated three General Orders including: Conduct Toward Supervisors and Subordinate Employees; Committing or Condoning Sexual, Racial, Religious, National Origin or Ethnic Harassment; and Conduct Unbecoming. The Sergeant was suspended without pay for 172 hours and was demoted to Deputy Sheriff on May 24, 2004 and was moved from road patrol to a courthouse position.
38. Plaintiff was suspended without pay on June 17, 2004 and was terminated on August 12, 2004.
39. Defendant violated the provisions of Section 760.10(1), Florida Statutes, which makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge or fail or refuse to hire any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race or national origin.
40. As a result of the national origin discrimination perpetrated by Defendant against Plaintiff, Plaintiff has sustained lost income and suffered emotional damages in the form of severe mental anguish, emotional distress and loss of dignity, and was also terminated from her position by Defendant.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays for judgment against Defendant, for all damages to which she may be entitled, including, but not limited to:
A. Judgment for back pay, front pay, expenses incurred by Plaintiff in her job search, and loss of benefits, including, but not limited to, all money paid for health benefits, loss of vacation entitlement, loss of stock
options and loss of retirement benefits;
B. Compensatory damages including, but not limited to, mental anguish, loss of dignity and other intangible injuries;
C. Punitive damages;
D. An award of reasonable attorney’s fees and all costs incurred herein; and
E. All other damages to which Plaintiff may be entitled.

COUNT II
SEX DISCRIMINATION

41. This is an action for damages for sex discrimination in violation of Chapter 760, Florida Statutes, The Florida Civil Rights Act.
42. Plaintiff realleges and incorporates Paragraphs 2 through 13, 28 through 31 and 34 through 38 of this Complaint as if set forth in full herein.
43. The Sergeant filled out a transfer request on Plaintiff’s behalf, which she knew nothing about until another supervisor questioned her about it. When Plaintiff confronted the Sergeant he told her that he had one too many women on his shift and one had to go. At that time there were only two (2) women on the Sergeant’s shift, Plaintiff and another woman, who eventually transferred to another shift.
44. The Sergeant told Plaintiff that she should quit and become a counselor. He also told her that she belongs in the kitchen and that women do not belong in law enforcement.
45. The Sergeant also told Plaintiff on a daily basis that she was a lesbian because she drove a yellow X-terra. He also told Plaintiff that her husband left her because she was a lesbian and she needed to come out of the closet.
46. Defendant violated the provisions of Section 760.10(1), Florida Statutes, which makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge or fail or refuse to hire any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s sex.
47. As a result of the sex discrimination perpetrated by Defendant against Plaintiff, Plaintiff has sustained lost income and suffered emotional damages in the form of severe mental anguish, emotional distress and loss of dignity, and was also terminated from her position by Defendant.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays for judgment against Defendant, for all damages to which she may be entitled, including, but not limited to:
A. Judgment for back pay, front pay, expenses incurred by Plaintiff in her job search, and loss of benefits, including, but not limited to, all money paid for health benefits, loss of vacation entitlement, loss of stock
options and loss of retirement benefits;
B. Compensatory damages including, but not limited to, mental anguish, loss of dignity and other intangible injuries;
C. Punitive damages;
D. An award of reasonable attorney’s fees and all costs incurred herein; and
E. All other damages to which Plaintiff may be entitled.

COUNT III- RETALIATION

48. This is an action for damages for retaliation in violation of Chapter 760, Florida Statutes, The Florida Civil Rights Act.
49. Plaintiff realleges and incorporates paragraphs 2 through 13 and 16 through 38 of this Complaint as if set forth in full herein.
50. Subsequent to Plaintiff making internal complaints of sex, race and national origin discrimination and harassment to Defendant and because Plaintiff made internal complaints of sex, race and national origin discrimination and harassment, Plaintiff experienced retaliatory acts by Defendant including termination.
51. The acts alleged in this Complaint constitute a violation of Section 760.10(7), Florida Statutes, “It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer…to discriminate against any person because that person has opposed any practice which is an unlawful employment practice under this section, or because that person has made a charge, testified, assisted in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this section.”
52. As a result of retaliation perpetrated by Defendant against Plaintiff, Plaintiff has sustained lost income and suffered emotional damages in the form of severe mental anguish, emotional distress and loss of dignity, and was terminated from her position by Defendant.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays for judgment against Defendant, for all damages to which she may be entitled, including, but not limited to:
A. Judgment for back pay, front pay, expenses incurred by Plaintiff in her job search, and loss of benefits, including, but not limited to, all money paid for health benefits, loss of vacation entitlement, loss of stock
options and loss of retirement benefits;
B. Compensatory damages including, but not limited to, mental anguish, loss of dignity and other intangible injuries;
C. Punitive damages;
D. An award of reasonable attorney’s fees and all costs incurred herein; and
E. All other damages to which Plaintiff may be entitled.

DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL
Plaintiff demands a jury trial on all issues herein triable by jury.

DATED this _____day of May, 2005.

ALLEN & TRENT, P.A.

________________________
Wayne L. Allen, Esquire
Florida Bar No. 0110025
Adrienne E. Trent, Esquire
Florida Bar No. 0060119
Daniel A. Perez, Esquire
Florida Bar No. 0426903
Attorneys for Plaintiff
700 N. Wickham Road, Suite 107
Melbourne, Florida 32935
Phone: (321) 254-7550
Fax: (321) 242-1681

Attorney: Maurice Arcadier
Status: Closed
Date Filed: 05/17/2005

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