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Friday, June 1, 2012

Justice Department Settles Lawsuit with Pierce County, Washington, Alleging Employment Discrimination

The Justice Department announced today it has entered into a consent decree with Pierce County, Wash., that, if approved by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, will resolve allegations that the county discriminated against a female employee by retaliating against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is a federal statute which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin or religion and protects employees who file complaints under any of those bases. 

The department’s complaint, filed today along with the consent decree, alleges that the county, through its agents at the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer’s Office, discriminated against Administrative Officer Sally Barnes by retaliating against her because she engaged in activity protected under Title VII. The United States alleges in its complaint that Barnes was subjected to multiple adverse employment actions between Jan. 22, 2009 and Nov. 30, 2009, including the loss of her administrative officer and other supervisory duties, exclusion from important meetings and information necessary for the management of her division and an involuntary relocation to an undesirable work location.

“This consent decree sends the important message that discrimination and retaliation will not be tolerated,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “I am pleased that we were able to work with the county to arrive at a resolution that will put mechanisms in place to prevent and correct discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.”

Barnes initially filed charges of discrimination and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which investigated the matter and determined there was reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred, referring the matter to the Justice Department.

“Retaliation by supervisors, especially elected officials, has no place in the workforce,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “This settlement will ensure all Pierce County employees know their rights and can do their jobs without fear of being punished for contacting their human resources department about discrimination.” 

Under the terms of the consent decree and settlement agreement, the county has agreed to award $400,000 to Barnes. In addition, the county is required to review and revise its Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policies to protect its employees from unlawful retaliation and must provide training on equal employment opportunity law and its anti-retaliation policies to all of its employees and officials at the Assessor-Treasurer’s Office.

The continued enforcement of Title VII is a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt/ and www.justice.gov/crt/emp/.

Related Materials:

Pierce County -Complaint
Pierce County - Proposed Consent Decree
Pierce County - Joint Motion

Press Release Number: 
Updated October 8, 2014