Former Employee Accuses Union Leader of Gender Discrimination

Sandy Naranjo, a former United Food and Commercial Workers Union employee, claims she was fired due to gender discrimination and political retaliation, but her employer says the claims are 'meritless'

One of San Diego's well-known union leaders is facing serious allegations of gender discrimination and political retaliation, as outlined in a complaint lawsuit filed by a former employee.

The civil complaint is being filed by Sandy Naranjo against the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), which is headed by Mickey Kasparian.

Naranjo, a 29-year-old mother, lost her job on Dec. 9 at the UFCW in Mission Valley. In her complaint, she claims gender discrimination and political retaliation at the hands of her former employer.

“I felt humiliated that part of my identity was taken away,” Naranjo told NBC 7, speaking of the day she lost her job. “I lived to be a union organizer because I was raised in a union family. I wanted to fight for families I've seen that remind me of mine."

The complaint claims several women were allegedly mistreated in the office and also accuses Kasparian of using degrading words about women, including Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.

The UFCW said the claims in Naranjo’s complaint are “meritless.”

The union sent this statement to NBC 7:

“UFCW Local 135 is informed that Sandy Naranjo, a former Union organizer, has had her lawyers prepare a meritless court complaint against UFCW Local 135, which has been shared with members of the media. Naranjo was recently terminated by UFCW Local 135 for good cause. Her complaint, which was made public without any demand letter or other communication to the Union from her attorneys, is nothing more than a pack of outrageous lies and falsehoods, defaming the Union and its leadership. UFCW Local 135 has provided strong and dedicated leadership for working people and their families in the San Diego community, both at the bargaining table and in the political arena. UFCW Local 135, strenuously denies the false and baseless allegations in the complaint and questions the motives and timing behind it. UFCW Local 135 will vigorously oppose this frivolous lawsuit with all necessary resources, and will seek sanctions and attorney’s fees when we prevail.”

Naranjo told NBC 7 she won Organizer of the Year as well as another award just days before she was fired. She said the awards prove she was fired for political retaliation, allegedly because her husband works for a different union that often sides with opposing political candidates.

“This really boils down to retaliation by a very powerful man against a woman he thought was crossing him by a man who takes no prisoners when it comes to women crossing him,” said Naranjo’s attorney, Dan Gilleon.

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