County Accused of Discriminating Against Reservists

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Orange County Counsel Nick Chrisos is systematically discriminating against military reservists who work at the county counsel’s office, alleges one senior deputy in a lawsuit being discussed privately by the Orange County Board of Supervisors today in closed session.

Robert Ervais, who has been with the county counsel’s office since 2000, filed suit against the county last August alleging that his military reservist duties have cost him career promotions in violation of federal and state law.

Chrisos did not return a call seeking comment.

Ervais argues in court documents that former County Counsel Ben DeMayo warned him against serving in the military.

Nonetheless, Ervais become a military reservist in 2004 and argues that Chrisos, county counel since 2006, has since intentionally passed him over for promotions because of his military service commitments.

In his lawsuit, Ervais alleges the discrimination is part of a broader pattern of harassment that federal laws like the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act and California’s Military and Veteran’s Code were aimed at halting.

Ervais is the latest in a string of harassment-related lawsuits to be filed against the county.

Paula Kitchen, the county’s equal employment opportunity compliance officer, has filed suit alleging harassment. So has Kathleen Tahilramani, a former human resources manager at county Waste & Recycling. Another high-ranking female executive, former Deputy CEO Alisa Drakodaidis, has filed a claim against the county alleging whistleblower-related retaliation and harassment.

In his lawsuit, Ervais, who now works in the probate mental health division, notes:

Over the past ten years, the County has demonstrated a pattern of discrimination against service members. Only three other active service members have been employed by the Department and all have experienced discrimination and adverse treatment. For example, one attorney reservist was subjected to complaints and comments by his supervisors and management about his military commitments, e.g. time away from the office, due to his membership in the United States Naval Reserve. For years he was passed over for promotion, and he has since retired. Another attorney reservist, who was required to spend time away from the office due to his military commitments, was informed that he was not a good fit for the office, and was terminated during the new hire probationary period. The third reservist employee was involuntarily transferred out of the department to a lesser position in the IT [information technology] department within the County Executive’s office while deployed in Afghanistan

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