Lt. Wendy Costello, one of the highest ranking females in the Orange County, California’s Sheriff’s Departments, has sued the department for sexual harassment. Costello claims that the agency repeatedly harassed female employees, denied them promotions based on gender and exploited them. Costello also claims that Sheriff Brad Gates contributed to the atmosphere of sexually harassment. Costello’s direct supervisor, Assistant Sheriff Dennis LaDucer, allegedly made a barrage of unwanted sexual advances towards her, groped her and threatened her. Costello’s attorney, Pat Thistle, commented, “This is a case of institutional terrorism against women, and it’s been gong on there a long time.”
Two other women are represented as plaintiffs in the suit. They claim that they often paired up in teams to avoid having to be alone with LaDucer. He allegedly took the women on lengthy lunch time excursions, loitered at their desks, insisted on touching them and threatened their careers if they ever said anything. On several business trips, LaDucer allegedly threatened and groped Costello, including forcefully kissing her. On one trip to visit Mexican law enforcement leaders, LaDucer allegedly humiliated Costello by describing her in sexual terms to the hosting officials and then suggestively rubbing up against her during a group photo.