SSRI Stories note: "Abnormal Dreams" is one of the side-effects of SSRI antidepressants listed as frequent in the Physicians Desk Reference.
Friday, Sep. 17, 2010
Deputy: Managers retaliated for reports
Sheriff's Department told of employee, pay problems, lawsuit says
By Garth Stapley
A reserve sheriff's deputy was blacklisted by superiors after he reported co-workers abusing overtime pay, he told jurors Thursday.
Del Camara, 40, of Hughson also testified that he shared concerns with a manager about a co-worker on medication while armed and driving a Stanislaus County vehicle.
And he was physically threatened by a co-worker, his attorney said.
Instead of launching investigations, his superiors removed him from a unit he essentially ran for seven years, and reduced pay caused Camara to lose his house, his attorney said in an opening statement.
Camara, who routinely drew outstanding job performance evaluations, is suing Stanislaus County and two managers in the Sheriff's Department, saying they retaliated after he complained and did nothing to correct a hostile work environment.
Camara, a reserve deputy for 14 years, scheduled and oversaw inmate transportation to and from other counties for seven years. "I basically did everything" for the sheriff's Statewide Transportation Unit, he said.
But managers' actions showed no bias on age, race, gender or any other characteristic protected under fair employment law, the county's attorney contended, and Judge William Mayhew seemed to agree.
With jurors outside the courtroom, Mayhew said, "throwing out (a lawsuit) on an opening statement is very risky." But he warned Camara's lawyer, Daniel Mitchell, that he must prove discrimination to win the case.
Couldn't work with others
Michael Pott, an outside defense attorney hired by the county, said managers let Camara go "because he was not able to get along with co-workers." They will testify that Camara called them names, gave them the silent treatment for hours on end and refused to train one deputy, Pott said.
"It made sense to move him out," Pott told jurors.
Fair employment law does not protect workers younger than 40, and Camara was 37 when trouble started, Pott said.
Mitchell said Camara ratted out co-workers after a superior asked him about excessive overtime, costing taxpayers money. Camara said he tracked their movements and "could tell where they had lunch was nowhere near where they were going" with inmates.
Camara denied mistreating other deputies.
He reported a co-worker's antidepressant medication after the man talked of "weird dreams" involving a county vehicle crash that would kill Camara and spare the co-worker, Camara testified.
The trial has some similarity with one brought earlier this year by former sheriff's clerk Lydia Lopez, who claimed she was drummed out of a job after falling out of favor with superiors.
Lopez claimed to have suffered severe retaliation after reporting sexual advances by a co-worker who was promoted, while she was reassigned to a unit commanded by the man's father-in-law. She said she was forced out and became homeless for a time. Jurors sided with the county, and the only thing Lopez received was a $738,000 bill, mostly for attorneys' fee. It later was reduced to $31,000.
In addition to Lopez, nine other women who work or worked for the Sheriff's Department have brought legal challenges. One lawsuit was settled in October when the county agreed to pay $545,000 to three women who said they were punished for raising claims of workplace discrimination.
The county has tripled money set aside in its general liability fund, which pays for legal expenses, largely because of cases facing the Sheriff's Department.
The trial continues this morning in Department 21 at the City Tower building, 801 10th St., Modesto.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2390.