Haeggquist & Eck is representing the second woman to step forward with allegations of sexual harassment against former San Diego County Assistant Sheriff Richard Miller, the firm announced today.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in San Diego Superior Court alleges multiple violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act by the County of San Diego. It also alleges that the San Diego Sheriff’s Department negligently hired, retained, and supervised Miller, failed to prevent sexual harassment from occurring, and failed to properly discipline, demote, or terminate the Assistant Sheriff.
Plaintiff Louise LaFoy is an 11-year veteran of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, where she remains employed as a secretary to one of the Department’s Captains in its Law Enforcement bureau. Though she did not work directly under Assistant Sheriff Miller, her position required her to visit Ridgehaven, the Department’s headquarters, several times a week to hand-deliver confidential documents to top brass. It was during one of these visits, the Complaint alleges, that Miller first harassed Ms. LaFoy by hugging her and touching her buttocks as she exited an elevator. Ms. LaFoy reported the incident to a Department Commander but the Department did not take action, according to the Complaint. Following that incident, Ms. LaFoy and her coworker made a pact to accompany one another to Ridgehaven whenever possible to avoid being alone with Miller, the Complaint states.
Ms. LaFoy was then able to successfully avoid Miller until 2017, when he came to Ms. LaFoy’s office for a meeting. The Complaint alleges that Miller walked into the administrative space where Ms. LaFoy and her coworker were working and again hugged and groped her, an incident Ms. LaFoy later reviewed on surveillance videotape. Following a third incident in 2017, the Complaint states, Ms. LaFoy reported Miller’s conduct to the Department’s Internal Affairs bureau. The Complaint then alleges that Miller was placed on paid leave until his already-planned retirement date – even after a separate lawsuit was filed against the Department and Miller by former Department employee outlining similar allegations. Ms. LaFoy was never informed of the findings of the investigation and her requests to review the Department’s conclusions regarding Miller’s conduct were ignored, according to the Complaint.
“Today’s filing represents an important step toward changing a culture within the San Diego Sheriff’s Department that has turned a blind eye to allegations of sexual harassment within its ranks for far too long,” said Haeggquist & Eck Managing Partner Alreen Haeggquist, who together with HAE attorney Jenna Rangel represents Ms. LaFoy. “In so doing, the Department has turned its back on the many women who have tirelessly served its mission. Our client is a fiercely private person who is committed to her work and is by all accounts a consummate professional. Her courageous decision to step forward and file this lawsuit, which she recognizes now places her in a highly visible, public position, underscores her absolute commitment to ensuring this doesn’t happen again.”
“The decision to file this lawsuit is not one I arrived at lightly,” LaFoy said. “I am a private person and these events have completely disrupted my otherwise quiet life. With that said, I am absolutely committed to ensuring this sort of conduct does not go unanswered. I am proud to stand up for the women of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.”