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Citrus Heights Under Fire in New Age Discrimination Lawsuit


— November 18, 2020

The city of Citrus Heights was recently hit with a lawsuit after terminating Sandy Richards, a former employee.


Sandy Richards has spent much of her adult life working in law enforcement. Over the years she’s worked her way up from being a 911 dispatcher to “running the civilian side of the Citrus Heights Police Department, where she had worked since 2006.” However, at the age of 57, Richards began noticing a few things, things that eventually prompted her to file an age discrimination lawsuit against Citrus Heights. According to the suit, which was filed in federal court in Sacramento, “Citrus Heights officials manufactured a reason to fire her after she refused to retire.”

The suit names Chief Ron Lawrence, former chief, and current City Manager Christopher Boyd and Richards’ direct supervisor, Assistant Chief Gina Anderson. Additionally, it accuses the department of starting a “phony internal affairs investigation that led to her being escorted out of police headquarters and ultimately fired.”

In response, Richards said the move to have her removed from the job she loved has left her devastated. She said, “I was unceremoniously walked out of the police department…I have bad nightmares about it, full-on emotional trauma…I’ve never had anything like this happen.” She added:

“I’m a worker bee, I love to work. I love to keep busy, I love to be a problem solver. That’s why I was good with my job. I was a problem solver, I could solve anything…I could run circles around most people…I would still be working there…I loved what I did.”

Dispatcher
Dispatcher; image courtesy of ernestoeslava via Pixabay, www.pixabay.com

However, in 2018, Lawrence began talking to Richards about retiring. Though Richards said she didn’t plan on retiring soon, Lawrence didn’t back down. According to the suit, “Lawrence began a campaign of harassment and hostility toward her and manufactured bogus workplace violations to force her out.” Eventually, on June 21, 2019, she was “placed on administrative leave and escorted out of the building without anyone giving her a reason for her removal.” The next day, “Boyd, the city manager, and former chief returned her phone call and she protested her termination.” Boyd’s response? He told her “she should have had an exit plan like Boyd did.”

To make matters worse, the department “began an internal affairs probe and in September 2019 cited examples of misconduct that Richards vehemently disagreed with and considered a pretext for age discrimination,” the lawsuit states. The department also ordered a psychological exam, something that was “imposed without justification because Richards did not display any objective signs that her psychological fitness was an issue.”

Unfortunately for Richards, she was fired on April 8, based on the city’s “findings of serious misconduct and harassment and discrimination.”

Because she was escorted from the police building, Richards said she “just stayed home in silence for months.” Then in June, she filed her lawsuit against the city. That initial complaint was rejected, so she filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Both of the federal agencies granted her the‘ right to sue’ letters, which she did. She is now seeking compensatory, punitive, and other damages. She also hopes her suit will prevent others from being treated the way she was. She said:

“I don’t want this to happen to anybody else…Being a civilian manager is really, really hard. Being a female civilian manager is even harder…And I worked really hard to make it work and to take care of people. I mean, that’s what I do. Support services. That’s what you do, support everybody…This is devastating to me, just absolutely devastating. I struggle with it every day.”

Sources:

Was she too old at 55? Lawsuit against Citrus Heights police claims age discrimination

Lawsuit against Citrus Heights police alleges age discrimination

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