STOCKTON — A Lodi Unified School District Board of Education member and Assistant San Joaquin County District Attorney has taken legal action against his employer, alleging he has been harassed and defamed.
Attorneys for Ron Freitas filed the suit in San Joaquin County Superior Court on June 27 against San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar, alleging age discrimination, gender discrimination, breach of contract, defamation and retaliation, among other charges.
Freitas, 57, has been with the district attorney's office since 1998, and has been an LUSD board member since 2016. He currently serves the district attorney’s office as a juvenile prosecutor.
A Stockton resident, Freitas represents LUSD’s area that includes Clairmont, Larson, Mosher and Westwood elementary schools, as well as McNair High School.
“In doing the acts complained of herein, defendant Verber Salazar acted with intent to cause injury to plaintiff and to harm his reputation and illustrious career of public service,” the complaint, filed by Stockton-based attorney Scott Malm says.
“Her actions were so vile, base and contemptible that they would be looked down on and despised by reasonable people,” the 24-page complaint further states.
According to the complaint, Verber Salazar promised Freitas a promotion to assistant district attorney if he assisted with her 2014 campaign for district attorney. After her election, Verber Salazar appointed a former roommate to the post instead, the suit claims.
Freitas was eventually promoted to assistant district attorney, and Verber-Salazar began making several jokes about his age during her first term. She also allegedly provided female employees with perks and benefits that Freitas and male co-workers were denied, the lawsuit claims.
Freitas claims that in March of 2018, the district attorney gave him an ultimatum to accept early retirement or face a demotion. The same month, Freitas filed a complaint with his department’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and contacted the County Counsel’s office, the lawsuit states.
Three hours after filing the complaint, Freitas was placed in administrative leave for unknown reasons and an unknown amount of time, the lawsuit claims. He alleges that he was held against his will in his office by an armed officer until he signed a memorandum complying with the administrative leave. His identification badge and office keys were taken from him, and he was removed from the office, the lawsuit states.
Freitas said he never received any documentation as to why he was being demoted or placed on leave.
The County Counsel’s office attempted to intervene on Freitas’s behalf, offering him a position in that department. However, the lawsuit claims the district attorney refused to cooperate with the transfer.
On March 30, 2018, Verber Salazar attempted to terminate Freitas for unknown reason and without going through proper county procedure, the lawsuit claims. Two months later, Freitas was eventually transferred to the Lodi branch of superior court, resulting in a decrease in salary and benefits, the lawsuit claims.
Last November, Freitas filed a claim against the county and Verber Salazar, alleging his demotion was based on age and gender discrimination, political affiliation, and retaliation for filing a complaint earlier in the year.
However, because the county did not respond within a 45-day time period, the claim was rejected, the lawsuit states.
Freitas also filed a complaint with the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency in November, stating he was demoted for his political affiliation or belief. The lawsuit claims the agency had not notified Freitas that it would conduct an investigation.
The same month, Freitas filed an intake form with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging discrimination based on his age and gender; demotion; denial of a work environment free of discrimination or retaliation; denial of an employment benefit or privilege; denial of work opportunities or assignments; reprimand and suspension.
According to the claim, the agency granted Freitas as right sue letter.
This week, the district attorney’s office released a statement on social media stating it had not been formally served with the lawsuit, but was aware of the claims being made.
The district attorney’s office said the lawsuit is an internal employee matter and it is prevented from disclosing information about the claims.
“The District Attorney denies all allegations and unsubstantiated characterizations made in the lawsuit,” the statement says. “At the legally appropriate time, however, the district attorney will respond to each of the claims in accordance with legal process.”
According to the San Joaquin County Superior Court website, Freitas is seeking more than $25,000 in damages, and the case will appear before Judge Holly Carter in Department 10B on Dec. 24 at 8:45 a.m.
The complete complaint against the district attorney can be viewed online at https://tinurl.com.Freitassuit.