Fighting for Women's Equality

A Win for the Women of the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department

May 19, 2016 | by

May 17 marked an important day for the women of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. After a five week-long trial, a jury found that Annica Hagadorn, Jodi Mendonca, Traci Keillor, and Dawn Douglas had suffered retaliation for speaking out about discrimination in the department.

After complaining internally about gender and race discrimination in promotions and preferential treatment towards a female deputy who was romantically involved with a male manager, the careers of all four women were stalled and derailed. They were subjected to punitive investigations, passed up for promotions, and reassigned to undesirable positions that hindered their advancement in the department.  

Equal Rights Advocates was proud to assist plaintiffs’ counsel of the Law Offices of Jerry Chong and Alice Wong and Minami Tamaki LLP in this important case.  We hope that their victory at trial sends a strong message to women working in law enforcement and other male-dominated industries that they have the right to a safe and fair workplace, and that their voices will be heard.

“My former co-workers and I were fearful when we first decided to stand up to what was happening at the Sheriff’s Department, especially because people inside our workplace warned us that no one would take us seriously,” said plaintiff Jodi Mendonca. “But this verdict shows that people DO take retaliation and discrimination claims seriously. I couldn’t be prouder of myself, and of my co-plaintiffs, Annica, Dawn, and Tracie, for having the courage to speak the truth even when it wasn’t clear anyone would listen.”

Collectively, the four plaintiffs were awarded more than $3.5 million in economic and non-economic damages.

“This verdict and case show why it is so important to have strong laws outlawing retaliation for opposing discrimination in the workplace, especially in highly male-dominated industries and occupations, like law enforcement, where women are highly vulnerable to harassment and too often absent from positions of leadership,” said Jennifer Reisch, Legal Director at ERA. “But they also show that laws are only as strong as the men and women who are courageous enough to enforce them. We are grateful for our clients’ tenacity in holding a public institution like the Sheriff’s Department accountable and making sure that other women don’t face the same barriers to success.”

To learn more about how women in non-traditional occupations and highly male-dominated industries are disproportionately harmed by systems of oppression and sexism, read ERA’s report on the history of sexual harassment in the workplace.

“We are incredibly proud of the long road our clients have traveled to justice. Through it all, they believed that taking a stand against the Sheriff’s Department was the right thing to do, even though it was hard,” said Lisa Mak, Minami Tamaki LLP. “It’s our hope that this victory will show members of law enforcement – both men and women – the importance of speaking out, telling their stories, and vindicating their rights in the workplace,” added Jerry Chong, of the Law Offices of Jerry Chong and Alice Wong.

Congratulations to these brave women on a significant victory!

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