In March 2022, I was asked by female Department of Social Service (DSS) Department employees to alert the Board of Supervisors, County Counsel, Human Resources (HR) Director Rodolfo Aguayo, then CEO Ben Salorio and former DSS Director V. Rodriguez of an alleged hostile work environment a male member of DSS management was making for these employees and their request for investigation.
On March 22, 2022 I sent an email to the above mentioned individuals outlining the concern identified by employees, request for investigation and included the name of the alleged perpetrator. On March 25, 2022, I received a response from the DSS Director emphasizing “compliance with State and Federal civil rights and programmatic laws/regulations and the ordinances of the County of Imperial: and “take very seriously any reports of unlawful activity not limited to discrimination, oppression, or retaliation complaints. These reports are investigated, documented escalated and resolved as our laws and processes require.” At the end of the email, I was urged “to guide them (employees) through the appropriate channels of reporting these occurrences and support them through these processes.” I replied stating the employees “feared retaliatory actions for speaking up because we have to protect our job” and that is why they contacted me. I notified them that this type of fear is common when a perceived abuse of authority is present and reminded them of anonymous information precedent utilized by the County to glean information from staff. Unfortunately, it appears no action.
The irony of the County’s response is that the County has paid out more than six figures in lawsuit settlement monies due to this same DSS male management employee’s actions of hostile work environment and discrimination based on disability: both against female employees. I have first hand knowledge because I was subpoenaed and gave an approximate three hour deposition late last year regarding one case in which the plaintiff was awarded damages. It is appalling to know that the Imperial County continues to employ this individual in a management position or at all.
This is exactly the pattern I have been outspoken about where males in management are protected. The fact additional female employees are still experiencing oppression by this management employee despite him being found liable of previous unlawful conduct is unconscionable. Silence is a form of acceptance and yet HR Director’ Aguayo’s silence is deafening. Despite Aguayo being investigated for a complaint I filed with the County based upon religious discrimination and covering up sexual harassment, Mr. Aguayo actions, or lack of, encourage unethical and questionable behaviors at the County of Imperial.
Is the continued employment of an employee whom the County has paid out six figures in legal settlements and their continued hostile behavior acceptable to the HR Director? I think the better question is this: Why do County Counsel and the Board of Supervisors continue to allow HR Director Aguayo to continue and implement oppressed working conditions for County employees by a known offender? In all fairness, Board of Supervisors Ryan Kelley and Raymond Castillo have attempted to address these issues but are only the minority and, alas, outnumbered. This practice is unacceptable. The good ol boys win again.
Claudia M. Camarena