County To Settle Deputy’s Wrongful Termination Case

(July 19) San Bernardino County is on the verge of settling a case brought against it, Sheriff John McMahon, the sheriff’s department and several sheriff’s department command staff by sheriff’s deputy Travis Bauer  over accusation that he was harassed, intimidated and wrongfully disciplined for seeking to exercise his rights under the Family Medical Leave Act in order to care for his ill mother.
At issue in the case were several steps Bauer’s superiors took to at first dissuade him from utilizing family medical leave, followed by accusations that he had falsified his claim. The effort to fire him involved violations of his privacy, including tapping his phone without first obtaining a court warrant to do so.
Of crucial significance in the case, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Riverside in April 2012, were emails and other communications between Bauer’s supervisors and other members of the department which demonstrated that department higher-ups believed Bauer had made misrepresentations with regard to his requests for time off, the animus they had toward Bauer, the lengths they went to in order to make a case against him, the misrepresentations made in the effort to make that case and, perhaps most damaging of all, efforts by members of the department at the highest level to hide evidence of the campaign that had been carried out against Bauer when it was ultimately determined that his request for leave was legitimate.
According to documents filed with the court by Bauer’s attorney, Michael McGill, key evidence in support of Bauer’s case included a copy of an email between sheriff’s captain Mark Marnati and Sheriff John McMahon in which “pinging” Bauer’s cell phone to monitor his whereabouts is discussed; documentation of an effort to have Bauer fired over failure to properly register a vehicle he owned even though registration on the vehicle was current; disciplining him for writing “warning” traffic citations, though that practice was one commonly used by other deputies who were not so disciplined; falsifications made about Bauer’s mother’s medical condition after sheriff’s investigators contacted her and determined her illness was genuine; the adjusting of Bauer’s schedule by his supervisors without informing him of the changes followed with designating  Bauer as absent without leave for missing shifts he did not know he was expected to cover; Bauer’s supervisors placing him on conflicting shifts and hours; Bauer’s placement on a work performance improvement plan and his deliberate reassignment to another immediate supervisor when his supervisor gave indication Bauer was meeting department expectations; and the use of a falsified finding that Bauer was fraudulently using family medical leave to terminate him.
Even as Bauer’s legal team was documenting an effort to retaliate against him had taken place, lawyers for the county and the sheriff’s department made three separate motions to have the case dismissed. U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips denied all three motions. A notice of settlement in the case was filed June 28, obviating the initiation of a trial that was to commence on July 2 and calling for San Bernardino County Supervisors to approve a settlement as early as its July 23 meeting and no later than August 1. Indications were, however, that the board of supervisors would delay a vote on the matter at least until August 6.

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