Ex-Oceano CSD employee alleges discrimination in lawsuit

A former Oceano Community Services District employee who was fired last December has filed a federal lawsuit against the district alleging he was discriminated against because of a disability and his age.

Steven Langstaff, a utilities service operator, also alleges he was wrongfully terminated and denied his due process rights, according to a civil lawsuit filed Oct. 4 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The lawsuit also names Oceano district General Manager Tom Geaslen and Dan Silveira, the district’s former field utility supervisor and Langstaff’s boss, who resigned in June.

A civil lawsuit represents only one side in litigation.

Langstaff had filed a formal harassment and wrongful termination claim against the district June 6. The district board sent him a letter June 28 denying his claim.

Langstaff started working for the Oceano services district in June 2006, according to his lawsuit. A disability, peripheral arterial disease, necessitated that Langstaff take time off for surgery or other medical issues, and he only took a few days off unpaid when he used up all his sick and vacation days, the complaint states.

Langstaff alleges that after Geaslen was appointed general manager, he started disparaging Langstaff for taking time off and accused of not being “on board” with the district’s operations.

Langstaff also alleges that Silveira assigned him more demanding physical jobs and kept lighter work for the younger staff members, according to his lawsuit.

Langstaff was 52 years old when he was fired Dec. 13, 2011. He was earning $21.71 an hour, but alleges that newer employees were being hired at $11 an hour.

He alleges the termination has caused him strain and emotional distress and has lost “significant amounts of money.” He is asking for economic damages for lost wages, lost benefits and lost employment opportunities, compensatory damages for pain and anxiety, attorney’s fees and court costs.

The district board was set to discuss the lawsuit in closed session on Wednesday. When contacted Thursday, Geaslen said the district told its insurance company to defend against the suit. “We will fight the claim,” he said.

In previous interviews after the initial claim was filed, district officials had disputed the allegations.