Ex-Cal Poly farm mechanic alleges racism in lawsuit

A former Cal Poly farm mechanic has filed a lawsuit against the university claiming racial discrimination, including allegations that colleagues spat on his truck and cursed his name in writing.

Carlos Ramirez filed the suit against the university and former supervisor Gary Ketcham. The filing represents only one side of the case.

Ramirez was the only Hispanic working among a group of white employees in the university’s farm shop, where agricultural equipment such as tractors is stored and repaired by staff and students, said his lawyer, David Hagan.

Ramirez worked at Cal Poly from March 2005 until November 2007 and had positive performance reviews, Hagan said.

Ramirez resigned from the position, according to Hagan, who said the civil suit will be served to the defendants sometime in the next couple of weeks.

“The university has not been served with the lawsuit,” said Scott Roark, a Cal Poly spokesman. “As a result, Cal Poly has no comment at this time. Also, it’s important to note that Mr. Ramirez is no longer an employee of the university.”

No specific racial attacks in regards to Ramirez’s Mexican ancestry are alleged in the filing.

But Hagan said that racism frequently manifests itself without direct racial remarks, and that Ramirez was made to feel unwelcome so that he would leave his job.

In the court filing, Ramirez alleges that a co-worker cursed his name using letters that label farm equipment, which was recorded by a student using a cell phone camera. The co-worker later apologized, the filing says.

Hagan said that Ramirez reported the incidents to the appropriate Cal Poly officials, but “no follow-up on the racial harassment” was provided.

Ramirez also claims he didn’t receive pay for some of the overtime he worked and was accused by Cal Poly of trying to use university money to buy rims from a tire shop.

Hagan said the accusation of the theft involved the police, but the allegation was dropped.

Ramirez said he was told to order the rims through his job and never picked them up.

The lawsuit alleges that some employees in his department were misusing Cal Poly property and funds.

“Carlos became a convenient scapegoat (with the allegation of stealing rims) when the misuse of funds and materials by colleagues came to light,” Hagan said.

Judge Charles Crandall has been assigned to the case.