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Washington DOC Settles Sex Harassment Suit for $250,000

WA DOC Settles Sex Harassment Suit for $250,000

In December 2000, the Washington Department of Corrections paid $250,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a former community corrections officer who says she was fired after complaining to superiors about the harassment.

Shawnae Fossum claimed in her 1997 lawsuit that a male coworker referred to her and other female employees as "babe," and told her that women should not work at the DOC. He also told her that he had a gun and knew how to use it.

When Fossum complained to her supervisor, he failed to take action, the suit contended. After she twice complained to an affirmative action officer, her supervisor retaliated by closely monitoring and criticizing her work, and ultimately having her fired, the suit stated.

Before she complained of the harassment, her work performance evaluations were positive, according to the suit. The supervisor's retaliation was especially troubling, said Fossum's attorney, Stephen Connor.

"That in my mind was the most important element," Conner told the Tacoma News Tribune.

Kathy Gastreich, risk manager for the DOC, confirmed the department had fired the employee accused of harassing Fossum. She would not say whether his termination had anything to do with Fossum's allegations. No action was taken against the supervisor, Gastreich said.

"The Department of Corrections acknowledges certain aspects of the allegations pose risk," she said in a prepared statement, "and as opposed to litigating this matter, the parties agreed to find a common ground in a settlement resolution."

It is the largest settlement against the DOC by an employee regarding an employment matter, state officials said.

Source: Tacoma News Tribune

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Related legal case

Fossum v. WA DOC