SAN DIEGO — Two women claim they were regularly subjected to sexual harassment by one of their supervisors while working as detectives for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.
A lawsuit names that supervisor as Sgt. Shawn Silva. The women also said that others in the department knew what was happening and did nothing to stop it.
“He just went on a reign of terror harassing them,” said attorney Jenna Rangel, who is representing Deborah Steismeyer and Stacey Ralph.
They said the abuse they encountered while working out of the Poway substation was so overwhelming, they had to quit the jobs they loved.'
“Inappropriate, offensive comments about their sex lives, about their sexual orientation, making false rumors about, not only their sexual orientation, but about the promotions they received," said Rangel.
Now the women are suing the county and Sgt. Silva alleging he "demeaned, degraded, and berated them." And, among other things, the lawsuit alleged he frequently called female employees "home-wreckers" and "black widows". Detective Ralph says she reported her concerns to a higher ranking officer, but he "minimized her allegations, did not report Silva to internal affairs, and did little to stop the harassment and discrimination."
“Each time it was essentially swept under the rug,” said Rangel. “He wasn't disciplined in any way that she saw and once it was brought up to him, the discrimination and harassment only got worse.”
We reached out to the San Diego Sheriff’s Department for a comment. The department said they can't talk about a pending lawsuit, but they did say that all employees are required to take sexual harassment training.
The sheriff's department also added, "We hold all of our employees to the highest standards and require our staff to treat everyone with dignity, respect, and compassion."
In July 2021, Internal Affairs received a formal complaint against Sgt. Silva and opened an investigation into the women's claims, but CBS 8 was told Sgt. Silva was never interviews and was allowed to retire with full benefits before that investigation was completed.
“He was never reprimanded or disciplined,” Rangel said. “He got to retire and that was it so he didn't suffer anything while they were left pretty much shattered.
The women are suing for unspecified monetary damages. A trial date has not yet been set.