SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A judge has ruled in favor of a female employee who accused the former assistant sheriff of sexual harassment.
The lawsuit, filed in 2018, also accused the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department of failure to stop the harassment.
On Monday, the plaintiff, Louise LaFoy, was awarded $50,000 for the sexual harassment claim and $10,000 for the claim of failure to prevent sexual harassment.
“I'm feeling overwhelmed, but very excited… It has been a rollercoaster ride,” LaFoy told Team 10 Tuesday afternoon.
The civil trial against former Assistant Sheriff Richard Miller was a bench trial, meaning the case was decided by a judge instead of a jury.
LaFoy, who still works at the Sheriff’s Department, said Miller first inappropriate groped her in 2014. The lawsuit said that he slid his hand “down her right side and onto her buttocks.”
LaFoy said a similar incident happened in 2017.
During testimony in the case, it was revealed that three women accused Miller of inappropriate conduct. LaFoy said she reported it to her supervisor, but her attorney said it was not taken seriously.
“When supervisors come into the workplace, they have an obligation to do something about it when an employee comes to you and says, this is what's going on. This is what's happening to me,” said LaFoy’s attorney Alreen Haeggquist.
Miller said he did nothing wrong and had never been accused of inappropriate behavior prior to these allegations.
Miller, who is a pastor at a local church, said he retired voluntarily while the investigation was ongoing in 2018. He said the retirement was planned, prior to the accusations against him.
An internal investigation found that his behavior was “conduct unbecoming,” but not sexual harassment.
LaFoy encouraged others to come forward if they are not feeling safe in their work environment.
“Try to get the strength and courage to come forward. It can be difficult, not feeling supported and scared at the same time. I'm hoping the sheriff's department takes this more seriously and is a little bit more transparent about the process,” LaFoy said Tuesday afternoon.
Team 10 reached out to the Sheriff’s Department for a response to the verdict. In a statement, a spokesperson said:
“The Sheriff's Department does not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind and thoroughly investigates all reported or observed allegations. We have clear policies that prohibit all forms of workplace harassment and we request our employees to immediately report any such conduct. Our employees can report incidents to their immediate supervisor, any supervisor within the department, the Sheriff's Employee Relations Manager, the Sheriff's Department Human Resources Officer, the Sheriff's Department Internal Affairs Unit, the County's Office of Internal Affairs (OIA), the Sheriff's Legal Affairs, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). We also provide and require our employees to attend sexual harassment training on a regular basis. We are committed to ensuring our employees are treated respectfully and believe we have a collective responsibility to foster a culture of professionalism and thoughtfulness amongst each of our employees.”