Sheriff’s captain loses job for using jail inmates to build workplace barbecue


Something for the weekend: With the warmer weather advancing, increasing numbers of employees are daydreaming about firing up the barbie after work. Meanwhile, employers are ever more aware of the need for breakout spaces, down time and social events to boost wellbeing and create a positive work-life balance among staff.

However, organisations might do well to heed the warning of one Santa Clara County sheriff’s captain, who has been placed on paid administrative leave for using her jail’s inmates to build an unauthorised on-site workplace barbecue.

On Friday 31 May 2019,  sheriff’s captain Amy Le was placed on paid administrative leave from her job at Elmwood Jail, losing both her badge and county vehicle, for using inmate labour to build an on-site arbour and barbecue.

Le contributed her own money to pay for the endeavour, aiming to create a summer breakout space for the jail’s correctional staff. However, Le failed to obtain a building permit for the project, which was problematic for her senior officers and led to disciplinary action.

John Hirokawa, retired undersheriff and chief of correction, told news platform I-Team: “It’s very unusual for a captain to be walked off in that manner for a project that wasn’t for personal gain, on jail property.

“There may have been policies or procedures broken with regard to that project, but there must be more to the story.”

Le has been one of the highest-paid Santa Clara County employees for a number of years; in 2017, she earned $449,767.49 (£353,566.72), inclusive of overtime and benefits. Her base salary for that year was $142,530.12 (£112,057.18).

Here at Employee Benefits, we think it is a shame Le did not receive a building permit for her barbecue project, as we can appreciate the wish for these workplace perks as summer sets in; her idea has certainly wondering whether we could build a barbecue in the patio area at our new office…