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Washington DOC Wrongful Discharge Nets $64,718.50 Plus Reinstatement

The State of Washington settled a wrongfully discharged prison industries manager by paying him $64,718.50 in back pay, general damages, medical costs and attorney’s fees, and by re-hiring him.

Wayne Armbruster was a nine year veteran of the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) when he was promoted on October 6, 2006, from Industries Manager 3 to Service Delivery Division Assistant Manager. He was notified on October 10, 2006, however, that he was being investigated for allegedly improper off-duty conduct.

On November 9, 2006, Armbruster was given a Report of Investigation. Prior to the November 17, 2006 response deadline, Armbruster asserted “that the investigation contained untruthful statements and false allegations.”

Armbruster was removed from the Assistant Manager position and on December 21, 2006, he filed a complaint, alleging that the investigation against him was handled improperly, violated standard investigative protocols and “contained many false accusations and was handled by someone who was biased and who had intimate knowledge of the alleged impropriety.”

The hostile work environment created by the investigation caused Armbruster to develop medical conditions which forced him to take medical leave from December 19, 2006 to January 16, 2007, when DOC terminated his employment.

Prison officials fired Armbruster for allegedly engaging “in gross misconduct as a result of a consensual private relationship that allegedly took place off duty.” DOC failed to afford Armbruster the opportunity for a pre-termination hearing. On June 20, 2007, Armbruster filed a tort claim, alleging numerous violations of his rights, including his rights to: substantive and procedural due process; freedom of association; right to privacy; freedom from retaliation for filing a complaint about the manner of the investigation against him. Armbruster alleged that DOC created a hostile work environment, wrongfully discharged him and “committed the tort of outrage by engaging in a completely scandalous, biased investigation.” He sought damages for $100,000 and attorney’s fees.

The State quickly settled the claim. On October 30, 2007, DOC agreed to: pay Armbruster $42,718.50 in back pay and benefits; re-hire him, effective October 15, 2007, and restore his seniority; re-instate all of his sick leave from October 2006 to October 2007; remove all negative information about Armbruster’s employment and termination from his personnel file; pay his attorney, Harriet Strasberg, $5,000.00 in attorney’s fees; and pay Armbruster $15,000.00 in general damages and $2,000.00 in medical costs.

Source: In re Armbruster, Tort Claim & Settlement Agreement.

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Related legal case

In re Armbruster