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$42,500 Paid by Santa Clara County to Guard Harassed by Fellow Guard at County Jail

By Chuck Sharman

Under a settlement executed on May 2, 2018, Santa Clara County, California, agreed to pay $42,500 to a guard at the county jail who allegedly suffered sexual and gender harassment at the hands of a fellow guard.

After she was hired by the county Sheriff’s Department (SCCSD) in 2012, Edith Vasquez was sent to train at its law enforcement academy before she was placed on the job as a guard at the county jail. There, for six months beginning in April 2016, she was allegedly subjected to aggressive sexual and gender harassment by a fellow SCCSD deputy, training officer Marina Cruz, who gave Vasquez a derisive nickname: “tight pants.”

The situation came to a head on September 30, 2016, when Cruz got physically violent with Vasquez in the guard’s locker room at the jail, pushing her from behind, chest-bumping her and cursing her, in view of other guards—even blocking her from leaving for a time before finally letting Vasquez go with a farewell: “Bye, bye, tight pants.”

Vasquez filed a complaint with SCCSD, as well as the Department of Fair Housing and Employment and the County District Attorney’s office. In response, she was told by a superior at SCCSD, Lt. Davis, that the issue would be handled internally and that she should not discuss it with anyone. That same day, she was assigned to a new role as Training Officer—at the same facility where Cruz was working—and Vasquez allegedly began suffering physical symptoms of depression and anxiety, for which she had to seek medical treatment.

Vasquez ultimately exhausted her administrative remedies and filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on September 12, 2017, accusing the county of violations of the federal Civil Rights Act Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, and the state Fair Housing and Employment Act, G.C. §§12900 - 12996 (FHEA), by allowing the abuse, as well as accusing Cruz of assault and battery and false imprisonment.

After the Court issued a partial ruling in favor of defendants on March 30, 2018, Vasquez was left with one outstanding claim based on her allegedly hostile work environment in violation of Title VII and the FHEA. The parties then proceeded to reach their settlement agreement. Vasquez was represented by attorney David M. Poore of the Walnut Creek firm of Brown Poore.

See: Vasquez v. Cnty. of Santa Clara, USDC (N.D.Ca.), Case No. 5:17-cv-05263-NC.

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Related legal case

Vasquez v. Cnty. of Santa Clara