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Washington Guard’s Demotion for Creating Hostile Work Environment Warranted

The Washington State Personnel Appeals Board (PAB) has held that demotion is proper for a prison guard who created a hostile work environment and abused his position when he used sexually offensive language and made jokes and innuendos of a sexual nature.

Before the PAB was the appeal of Robert Hall, who was employed at Mc Neil Island Correctional Center. Hall had been a guard since 1980 and was promoted to sergeant in 1992. Before his demotion, he worked the major control south with guard David Wyman.

In December 1999, Wyman came forward to management with allegations that Hall was directing inappropriate, disparaging, and profane remarks at him. A letter of expectation was issued to Hall for calling Wyman a “bitch.” Hall was directed to discontinue making any future remarks.

Despite that letter, Hall referred to Wyman’s kids being sad because they had to leave friends behind by saying, “you mean they’re Greek?” When Wyman realized Hall was referencing anal intercourse, he told him he would not tolerate such “filthy” comments. Hall responded, “I am the sergeant here, I’ll do what I want.”

This June or July conversation was followed by an escalation in Hall repeatedly using “profanity, yelled and directed ‘cheap shots’ at him, made rude remarks, and generally hostile behavior towards him.”

The PAB agreed that Hall’s comments in reference to Wyman’s children were sexually offensive and inappropriate comments. His behavior towards Wyman “created an intimidating and hostile environment and constituted gross misconduct.” Hall’s failure to modify his behavior after the letter of expectation warranted a severe disciplinary sanction, and his appeal contesting demotion from sergeant to correctional officer 2 was denied. See: Hall v. Department of Corrections, PAB No: DEMO-01-0014. The PAB ruling is in the brief bank.

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Related legal case

Hall v. Department of Corrections