State officials are investigating the alleged use of offensive ethnic caricatures on e-mail messages a state social services supervisor sent, according to a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
The cabinet has ordered Gary Haner to stop using the images, said the spokeswoman, Vikki Franklin, on Tuesday.
Haner declined to comment on the investigation, Franklin said.
Haner is one of five regional supervisors who oversee social workers in charge of local offices in the cabinet's Southern Bluegrass Region, which includes Fayette, Madison, Powell, Jessamine, Clark, Mercer, Boyle, Lincoln, Estill and Garrard counties.
A complaint about the images was filed with the cabinet in December.
The images are caricatures that depict various ethnic stereotypes, including dark-skinned men and women and one Chinese woman.
The caricatures have designations attached to them, such as "Baby Mama," "Chula" and "China Doll."
According to the Web site Urbandictionary.com, Chula is slang for a pretty woman who is Hispanic.
One dark-skinned male caricature dubbed "Forty" appears to be carrying a bottle in a paper sack. According to the same Web site, the name refers to a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor beer.
One character called "Bullet" is wearing a bandanna around his forehead.
The cabinet's Equal Employment Opportunity Office is investigating, Franklin said.
She could not name the complainant because the name of anyone filing an EEO complaint is confidential until the investigation is complete and a report is issued, she said.
Franklin said a report would be made available when the investigation ends.
"If the investigation concludes (that) disciplinary action should be considered, it will be handled at that time," Franklin said.