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California deputy claims he was fired over sexual orientation

A former sheriff's deputy in Merced County is alleging that the department is guilty of sexual harassment, contending that his supervisors fired him because he is gay. The man, who was hired on to the force in 2008, says he was continually harassed throughout his three-year stint as a deputy.

The 33-year-old man alleges that the Sheriff's Department effectively enabled the harassment because administrators failed to act on his complaints.

The man's lawsuit claims that the brunt of the harassment started in 2009, when he suffered a variety of indignities at the hands of his coworkers. He came to work one day to find the word "homo" painted on his locker in nail polish, he says, and his personal property was routinely vandalized.

In addition, the man has alleged that he was denied training and career advancement because of his sexual orientation. In 2010, the man inquired about joining the department's patrol unit but he was harangued until he dropped the request. The man's management team had supposedly laughed at him when he asked for additional training, making lewd comments about gay marriage and insinuating that he should apply to be a flight attendant.

Not only was the man harassed within his own department, he also had run-ins with the California Highway Patrol because of his sexual orientation. CHP troopers are accused of ridiculing the man's attire and posture. The man says that he submitted a complaint to his supervisors but nothing was ever done to fix the problem.

The man says that he is mostly disappointed with the Sheriff's Department staff, which allowed the problems to continue. State police officers are more advanced in their sexual harassment policies, he says.

The man is suing for $5 million in lost wages and emotional distress resulting from the incidents.

Source: The Oakland Tribune, "Vandalism and insults: Merced County ex-deputy says he was harassed for being gay," Mike North, May 2, 2012

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