News

Trial in County lawsuit to begin Monday

by AMANDA WINTERS
Sequim Gazette

Trial is expected to begin Monday in a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed against Clallam County in 2009.

 

The lawsuit was filed in Jefferson County Superior Court by Carol Case, former deputy prosecutor; Elaine Sundt, former office administrator; Kathy Nielsen, former deputy prosecutor; and Hollie Hutton, representing her mother Robin Porter, a former legal assistant who died in January 2008.

 

All the plaintiffs were over the age of 50 when they were terminated or resigned from the office. They allege Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly and Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols treated them in a hostile, demeaning and condescending manner.

 

“Plaintiffs were subjected to intimidation, offensive comments, and/or conduct, a hostile work environment and disparate treatment because of their age,” according to the complaint.

 

Additionally, Case claims she was discriminated against and harassed due to a perceived disability.

 

In 2008, attorney Richard Creatura, on behalf of the former employees, filed a formal claim against the Prosecutor’s Office for up to $1 million per plaintiff. He also indicated he received accounts of discrimination from several more former employees than were listed in the case. The claim preceded the lawsuit filed a few months later.

 

Mike Patterson, representing the county on behalf of the Seattle-based Patterson, Buchanan, Fobes, Leitch and Kalzer law firm, said the county believes these are very defensible cases and that they met and complied with the law and their policies and procedures.

 

He said three of the plaintiffs had reason to be terminated. The fourth resigned.

 

“It’s our contention and our position that one of those plaintiff’s resigned her position, gave two weeks notice, and it was in light of some discipline that was coming her way for violating work rules,” he said.

 

“Our position is you resign, you give your two weeks notice and now she’s trying to say she was discharged and she was not.”

 

Another plaintiff was repeatedly warned of workplace rule violations.

 

The trial in Jefferson County could last up to six weeks. Upon the request of the plaintiffs, Kelly and Nichols must attend each day of the trial, he said.

 


Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com.

 

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