A former Douglas County Emergency Communications dispatch supervisor has filed a lawsuit against the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office citing age and sex discrimination.
The lawsuit, filed in United State District Court in Eugene, alleges that Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin and Undersheriff Jeff Frieze exercised age and sex discrimination when they passed on promoting then 53-year-old Ronna Salerno to the position of Communications Operations Manager despite her having significantly more experience for the position than the person who got the job, Tom Cross.
Salerno began working for dispatch in 1994 and spent 25 years with the center until resigning in October 2019.
Salerno said she and two other female applications were passed over, despite all having more qualifications for the position that Cross, who was ultimately chosen, according to court documents.
Salerno said in the complaint that not only were she and another female supervisor, Teresa DeLaCruz, passed over in favor of Cross, but that the two women were threatened with termination if they did not help train the newly appointed manager.
Frieze said that if the women did not help train Cross, he would “find someone who will,” according to court documents.
Salerno’s attorneys said Salerno filed an initial formal complaint with her then-supervisor, Laurie Jackson, that the decision was “unfair, unjust and improper, given her greater seniority and experience” over Cross. She later filed the same complaint with Cross once he became her supervisor.
The suit alleges that during an ensuing performance review, Cross wrote Salerno should “keep her comments to herself and do her job.” Salerno said she was also required to train Cross without receiving adequate pay commensurate with her new duties.
In its response to the complaint, the sheriff’s office said Cross received the promotion based on a higher total score during the interview process.
Sex discrimination is a violation of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Age discrimination was made illegal with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Salerno is also alleging retaliation by the sheriff’s office for both discrimination complaints.
The lawsuit does not specify specific monetary damages, and that any monetary damages will be determined by a jury.
Hanlin declined to comment on the ongoing case. The sheriff’s office is being represented by Tracy M. McGovern and Casey S. Murdock of the firm of Frohnmayer, Deatherage, Jamieson, Moore, Armosino & McGovern, P.C., of Medford.
The complaint was brought on behalf of Salerno by Ronald G. Guerra of Innova Legal Advisors, P.C., of Lake Oswego and Kelli M. Kennaday of Kennaday Leavitt P.C. of Sacramento. Neither Guerra or Kennaday could be reached for comment.