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Sunday, February 4, 2018

Washington Law Against Discrimination & Res Judicata

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Does the Washington Law Against Discrimination exempt the application of res judicata? Here’s my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


Under Washington State law, res judicata, or claim preclusion, prohibits the relitigation of claims and issues that were litigated or could have been litigated in a prior action. Eugster v. The Washington State Bar Association, 198 Wn.App. 758, 786, 397 P.3d 131, (Div. 3 2017) (citing Loveridge v. Fred Meyer, Inc., 125 Wn.2d 759, 763, 887 P.2d 898 (1995); Pederson v. Potter, 103 Wn.App. 62, 67, 11 P.3d 833 (2000)). The doctrine curtails multiplicity of actions and harassment in the courts. Id. (citing Bordeaux v. Ingersoll Rand Co., 71 Wn.2d 392, 395, 429 P.2d 207 (1967)). The broad general rule of res judicata suggests that a party is always prohibited from litigating a claim or issue that could have been raised in any earlier suit. Id.


However, a statute may expressly memorialize the application of the doctrine of res judicata, and, arguably, it may expressly exempt the application.  See, e.g., State, Dept. of Ecology v. Acquavella, 112 Wn.App. 729, 739, 51 P.3d 800 (Wash.App. Div. 3 2002) (finding that RCW 90.03.220 memorializes by statute the application of the doctrine of res judicata to water adjudications).  How does this hypothesis apply to the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), Chapter 49.60 RCW?  


The plain language of WLAD appears to show that the legislature intended to expressly exempt the application of res judicata to WLAD:

The provisions of this chapter [RCW 49.60] shall be construed liberally for the accomplishment of the purposes thereof … nor shall anything herein contained be construed to deny the right to any person to institute any action or pursue any civil or criminal remedy based upon an alleged violation of his or her civil rights…  

RCW 49.60.020 (emphasis added). Thus, arguably, it would be unlawful to construe any action, based on an alleged violation of a plaintiff's civil rights, in such a manner as to be precluded by res judicata.


It appears that one may argue that WLAD exempts the application of res judicata.


If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group, PS; please see our DISCLAIMER.

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