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$13,500 Settlement in Washington Sex Discrimination Claim; Public Records Act Violation

The State of Washington has paid $13,500 to settle the Public Records Act and gender discrimination suit of Marge Southard, a counselor for the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

Southard was employed by DSHS as a counselor for over 15 years; working first at Western State Hospital (WSH) for 8 years, then at the McNeil Island Special Commitment Center (SCC) for five years as a supervisor, and then back to WSH. Over that period, she complained of sexual harassment by male employees at SCC and about male supervisors having extramarital affairs with subordinates.

Her real problems began when she complained about Willie Stoddard, who was appointed to Acting Assistant Residential Care Manager at SCC. Stoddard had falsified information and documentation on his employment application, stating he had falsified his educational degrees. Southard reported these facts to her supervisors. Despite the truth of her allegations, Southard was disciplined for breaching confidentiality while no action was taken against Stoddard.

Southard’s appeal over her demotion to the Personnel Appeals Board (PAB) resulted in a settlement of returning her to her position and the reprimand letter being removed from her file. When the agreement was breached, Southard filed suit. In addition to the cash settlement and enforcement of the PAB ruling, the court settlement also provides Southard with a copy of the report into the allegations of wrongdoing by her, which the report found were untrue. The matter was settled on September 14, 2004. Southard was represented by Olympia attorneys Shawn T. Newman and Hugh McGavick. See: Southard v. State of Washington, Thurston County Superior Court, Case No. 04-2-01689-1.

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Related legal case

Southard v. State of Washington

Please see the brief bank for documents related to this case.