DENVER (CN) - A ranch hand claims in court that the owner's son set his hair on fire, sexually molested him, and that the ranch paid him just $2 an hour for 12-hour days, for years.
Silvano Serrano Zeferino sued the James Craig Bair Ranch, High Canyon Adventures, and their owners, Craig and Doris Bair and their son Jason, in Federal Court.
Serrano claims that he worked at the Glenwood Springs businesses from 2003 to 2011, as a sheepherder and general employee. He claims Jason Bair, who was his supervisor beginning in May 2009, set his hair on fire and sexually assaulted him twice.
"In May 2011, plaintiff Serrano Zeferino was riding in a truck driven by defendant Jason Bair when defendant reached over, ignited a cigarette lighter, and lit plaintiff's hair on fire," the complaint states. "Defendant told plaintiff he was 'joking,' but plaintiff was upset and intimidated by the incident."
The first sexual assault followed, Serrano says in the complaint: "On July 12, 2011, defendant Jason Bair sexually assaulted plaintiff Serrano Zeferino. Plaintiff was asleep in his camper when he awoke to defendant, who was noticeably intoxicated, touching his hair and chest. Plaintiff Serrano Zeferino looked over to the door to his camper and saw that defendant had entered by breaking the string that held the door shut. Using a vulgar Spanish term, defendant Jason Bair told plaintiff Serrano Zeferino that he would like what defendant was about to do. Plaintiff protested repeatedly as defendant removed his pants and forcibly sexually assaulted him. When the assault was completed, defendant told plaintiff he would kill him if he told anyone what had occurred. Plaintiff Serrano Zeferino was physically injured by the assault."
Serrano adds: "Defendant Jason Bair is physically much larger than plaintiff Serrano Zeferino.
"At some time after the first sexual assault, defendant Jason Bair told plaintiff Serrano Zeferino, referring to the assault, 'I'm not gay, but I like what I did.'
"In August of 2011, defendant Jason Bair sexually assaulted plaintiff Serrano Zeferino a second time. Defendant again entered plaintiff's camper without permission at night. When defendant Jason Bair attempted to enter his camper, plaintiff Serrano Zeferino told him not to. Defendant entered anyway, then physically forced plaintiff to perform oral sex on him.
"After the sexual assaults, plaintiff Serrano Zeferino became depressed and suicidal, and experienced frequent headaches."
Bair's father, Craig, followed this up with ethnic and sexual harassment, Serrano says.
Finally, according to the complaint: "On December 3, 2011, defendant Jason Bair drove a truck towards plaintiff Serrano Zeferino at a frightening rate of speed as though he was about to hit him, veering away at the last minute. Fearing that defendant Jason Bair would physically injure him, plaintiff Serrano Zeferino telephoned a friend who convinced him to leave his employment."
As a sheepherder, Serrano "worked from sunup to sundown, with half an hour or less for lunch, every day including Sundays," for 8 years, he says in the complaint. In the winters, he worked for High Canyon Adventures doing gardening, landscaping and housekeeping, often from sunup to sundown.
He says he was paid $900 a month, tops, which comes to $3.75 an hour for 8-hour days, and $2 an hour for 12-hour days.
He seeks liquidated and compensatory damages for Labor Code violations, assault and battery and false imprisonment.
He is represented by Sarah Parady, with Benezra & Culver, of Lakewood.