Beaman Law Files Sex Discrimination Suit for Former Public Defender
Former deputy public defender sues Riverside County
Ian James, The Desert Sun5:04 p.m. PST November 11, 2014
A woman who used to work as a deputy public defender is suing Riverside County, alleging her supervisors discriminated against and harassed her.
Forest Wilkerson worked as a deputy public defender in Indio from 2006 to 2013.
Her lawsuit, which was filed last month in Riverside County Superior Court, says officials in the public defender’s office discriminated against her “by harassing her, denying and delaying her promotions and other employment opportunities, assigning her greater workload than her male counterparts in the same position, and failing to pay her equal to male counterparts for equal work performed.”
Attorney Megan Beaman announced the lawsuit in a news release Tuesday, saying the county is being served with the lawsuit this week.
“I think the case is important because we’re talking about a public agency whose job it is to defend the rights of others,” Beaman said. “And here we find out that they’re violating the rights of their employees, so it’s important for the public to know that.”
Ray Smith, a spokesman for Riverside County, said he would check to see whether the county has been served with the lawsuit. A response wasn’t immediately available on Tuesday since it was a holiday.
Before suing, Wilkerson filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Beaman said the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that sex discrimination occurred, and issued to Wilkerson a “right to sue” letter.
Among various complaints, Wilkerson says in the lawsuit that the county denied her application for a promotion while promoting two male employees with less experience in the office.
Wilkerson also claims that Assistant Public Defender Bryant Villagran, who was a supervisor in the Indio office at the time, criticized female employees and questioned their competence.
The lawsuit says that Villagran’s behavior included “calling female employees ‘incompetent’ and ‘not real attorneys.’”
Reached by phone, Villagran declined to speak about the case.
“It would be inappropriate to comment while there’s pending litigation,” said Villagran, who is now retired.