Translate

Call Us Today! (253) 396-9000
(You'll always speak directly with Attorney Williams)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

McDonnell Douglas Framework (Step 2): The Employer's Burden

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the McDonnell Douglas Framework, (Framework), as applied by Washington State courts, how does a defendant-employer prove step 2 -- the employer's burden? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).
(To learn about the entire Framework and how it is applied, read our recent article entitled: The McDonnell Douglas Burden-Shifting Framework)

THE MCDONNELL DOUGLAS FRAMEWORK

The McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework has three steps:
STEP 1The "plaintiff bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination, which creates a presumption of discrimination." Scrivener v. Clark College, 181 Wn.2d 439, 446, 334 P.3d 541, (2014) (citing, Riehl, 152 Wn.2d at 149-50; Kastanis v. Educ. Emps. Credit Union, 122 Wn.2d 483, 490, 859 P.2d 26, 865 P.2d 507 (1993)) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added).
STEP 2"[T]he burden shifts to the defendant, who must articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action." Mikkelsen, 189 Wn.2d at 527 (Wash. 2017) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added).
STEP 3"[I]f the defendant meets this burden, the plaintiff must produce sufficient evidence showing that the defendant's alleged nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action was a pretext." Id. (internal citations omitted) (emphasis & hyperlink added). 

A CLOSER LOOK: STEP 2 -- THE EMPLOYER'S BURDEN

According to the Framework, "after the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden shifts to the employer, who must articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action." Id. at 533 (citing Scrivener, 181 Wn.2d at 446, 334 P.3d 541) (hyperlink added). "The employer need not persuade the court that it was actually motivated by the proffered reasons." Id. (citing, Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 254, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981)) (internal quotation marks omitted) (hyperlink added). "The employer's burden is merely one of production, rather than persuasion." Id. (citing, St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 510, 113 S.Ct. 2742, 125 L.Ed.2d 407 (1993)) (hyperlink added). "The employer need only introduce evidence which, taken as true, would permit the conclusion that there was a nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse action." Id. (citing St. Mary's Honor Ctr., 509 U.S. at 509) (hyperlink added).


LEARN MORE

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.

Friday, April 27, 2018

McDonnell Douglas Framework (Step 3): Proving Pretext

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the McDonnell Douglas Framework (Framework), as applied by Washington State courts, how does a plaintiff prove step 3 -- pretextHere's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).
(To learn about the entire Framework and how it is applied, read our recent article entitled: The McDonnell Douglas Burden-Shifting Framework)

THE MCDONNELL DOUGLAS FRAMEWORK

The McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework has three steps:
STEP 1The "plaintiff bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination, which creates a presumption of discrimination." Scrivener v. Clark College, 181 Wn.2d 439, 446, 334 P.3d 541, (2014) (citing, Riehl, 152 Wn.2d at 149-50; Kastanis v. Educ. Emps. Credit Union, 122 Wn.2d 483, 490, 859 P.2d 26, 865 P.2d 507 (1993)) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added).
STEP 2"[T]he burden shifts to the defendant, who must articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action." Mikkelsen, 189 Wn.2d at 527 (Wash. 2017) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added).
STEP 3"[I]f the defendant meets this burden, the plaintiff must produce sufficient evidence showing that the defendant's alleged nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action was a pretext." Id. (internal citations omitted) (emphasis & hyperlink added). 

A CLOSER LOOK: STEP 3 -- PROVING PRETEXT


Under the Framework, if the defendant-employer meets its burden to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action, then the burden shifts back to the plaintiff, who must then "produce sufficient evidence showing that the defendant's alleged nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action was a pretext." Id. (citing, Scrivener v. Clark College, 181 Wn.2d at 446) (hyperlink added). Employees can "satisfy the pretext prong by offering sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact either (1) that the defendant's reason is pretextual or (2) that although the employer's stated reason is legitimate, discrimination nevertheless was a substantial factor motivating the employer." Id. (citing, Scrivener v. Clark College, 181 Wn.2d at 446-47) (hyperlinks added).


PRACTICAL OUTCOMES
  1. When "there is no evidence of pretext, the defendant is entitled to dismissal as a matter of law." Kastanis, 122 Wn.2d at 491 (citing, Grimwood v. Univ. of Puget Sound, Inc., 110 Wash.2d 355, 364, 365, 753 P.2d 517 (1988); Carle v. McChord Credit Union, 65 Wash.App. 93, 102, 827 P.2d 1070 (1992)) (hyperlink added).
  2. And "[i]f there is evidence of pretext, the case must go to the jury." Id. (citing, Carle, 65 Wash. at 102, 827 P.2d 1070; see also Jones v. Kitsap Cy. Sanitary Landfill, Inc., 60 Wash.App. 369, 373, 803 P.2d 841 (1991)) (hyperlink added).

LEARN MORE

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.

The McDonnell Douglas Burden Shifting Framework

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under Washington State law, what is the McDonnell Douglas Burden-Shifting Framework (hereinafter, "McDonnell Douglas Framework" or "McDonnell Douglas") and how is it appliedHere's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


 THE ORIGIN OF THE FRAMEWORK

The McDonnell Douglas Framework is also known as a burden-shifting scheme. "The burden-shifting schemes, developed initially in the federal courts, were an effort to formulate uniform rules for making a prima facie case." Kastanis v. Educational Employees Credit Union, 122 Wn.2d 483, 490, 859 P.2d 26 (1993) (hyperlink added). "These rules were never intended as a charge to the jury." Id. (citing, United States Postal Serv. Bd. of Governors v. Aikens, 460 U.S. 711, 716, 103 S.Ct. 1478, 1482, 75 L.Ed.2d 403 (1983)). "Recognizing the 'lack of harmony' among judges on the rules applicable to establishing a prima facie case under title VII, the Supreme Court addressed the difficulty by formulating a 3-step burden-shifting test in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 801, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 1823, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973)." Id. (hyperlink added).


THE MCDONNELL DOUGLAS FRAMEWORK

The McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework has three steps:
STEP 1The "plaintiff bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination, which creates a presumption of discrimination." Scrivener v. Clark College, 181 Wn.2d 439, 446, 334 P.3d 541, (2014) (citing, Riehl, 152 Wn.2d at 149-50; Kastanis v. Educ. Emps. Credit Union, 122 Wn.2d 483, 490, 859 P.2d 26, 865 P.2d 507 (1993)) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added).
STEP 2"[T]he burden shifts to the defendant, who must articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action." Mikkelsen, 189 Wn.2d at 527 (Wash. 2017) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added).
STEP 3"[I]f the defendant meets this burden, the plaintiff must produce sufficient evidence showing that the defendant's alleged nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action was a pretext." Id. (internal citations omitted) (emphasis & hyperlink added). 

THE POLICY BEHIND THE FRAMEWORK

"The purpose of establishing the prima facie elements under McDonnell Douglas is to 'eliminate[ ] the most common nondiscriminatory reasons for the plaintiff's rejection,' namely, that the plaintiff is unqualified for the position or that the position no longer exists." Mikkelsen v. Public Utility District No. 1 of Kittitas County, 189 Wn.2d 516, 531 (Wash. 2017) (citing, Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253-54, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981)) (emphasis added) (hyperlink added).


WASHINGTON STATE ADOPTS THE FRAMEWORK

Intentional discrimination is difficult to prove. See Mikkelsen, 189 Wn.2d at 526 (internal citations omitted). Direct, 'smoking gun' evidence of discriminatory motivation is uncommon, because there will rarely be "eyewitness testimony as to the employer's mental processes." Id. (internal citations omitted). As a result, Washington State courts have "repeatedly emphasized that plaintiffs may rely on circumstantial, indirect, and inferential evidence to establish discriminatory action." Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, the Washington State Supreme Court "has adopted the standard articulated by McDonnell Douglas in discrimination cases that arise out of RCW 49.60.180 and the common law." Kastanis v. Educational Employees Credit Union, 122 Wn.2d 483, 490, 859 P.2d 26 (1993) (citing, Grimwood v. Univ. of Puget Sound, Inc., 110 Wash.2d 355, 364, 753 P.2d 517 (1988); Baldwin v. Sisters of Providence in Wash., Inc., 112 Wash.2d 127, 136, 769 P.2d 298 (1989)) (emphasis added) (hyperlinks added).


SUMMARY JUDGMENT

At summary judgment, the following are special considerations, inter alia, when applying the McDonnell Douglas Framework to WLAD claims:
[1] Summary judgment for an employer is seldom appropriate in employment discrimination cases because of the difficulty of proving discriminatory motivation. 
[2] When the record contains reasonable but competing inferences of both discrimination and nondiscrimination, the trier of fact must determine the true motivation.
[3] To overcome summary judgment, the plaintiff needs to show only that a reasonable jury could find that discrimination was a substantial factor in the employer's adverse employment action. 
See Mikkelsen, 189 Wn.2d at 527-28. 


LEARN MORE

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.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

WLAD: Definition of Credit Transaction

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | What is the definition of “credit transaction” under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD)? Here’s my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding)..

WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

WLAD "prohibits discriminatory practices in the areas of employment, places of public resort, accommodation, or amusement, in real estate transactions, and credit and insurance transactions on the basis of race, creed, color, national originfamilies with childrensexmarital statussexual orientationagehonorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and prohibits retaliation against persons who oppose a discriminatory practice, and those who file health care and state employee whistleblower complaints." See WSHRC Official Website --> About Uslast visited 3/27/18.

DEFINITION OF CREDIT TRANSACTION

Chapter 49.60.040 RCW is the relevant law, and it defines the term “credit transaction” as follows:
(6) "Credit transaction" includes any open or closed end credit transaction, whether in the nature of a loan, retail installment transaction, credit card issue or charge, or otherwise, and whether for personal or for business purposes, in which a service, finance, or interest charge is imposed, or which provides for repayment in scheduled payments, when such credit is extended in the regular course of any trade or commerce, including but not limited to transactions by banks, savings and loan associations or other financial lending institutions of whatever nature, stock brokers, or by a merchant or mercantile establishment which as part of its ordinary business permits or provides that payment for purchases of property or service therefrom may be deferred.
RCW 49.60.040(6) (emphasis added).


LEARN MORE

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.

WLAD: Definition of Real Property

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | What is the definition of the term “real property” under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD)? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).

WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

WLAD "prohibits discriminatory practices in the areas of employment, places of public resort, accommodation, or amusement, in real estate transactions, and credit and insurance transactions on the basis of race, creed, color, national originfamilies with childrensexmarital statussexual orientationagehonorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and prohibits retaliation against persons who oppose a discriminatory practice, and those who file health care and state employee whistleblower complaints." See WSHRC Official Website --> About Uslast visited 3/27/18 (emphasis and hyperlinks added).

DEFINITION OF REAL PROPERTY

Chapter 49.60.040(22) RCW is the relevant law, and it defines the term “real property” as follows:
(22) "Real property" includes buildings, structures, dwellings, real estate, lands, tenements, leaseholds, interests in real estate cooperatives, condominiums, and hereditaments, corporeal and incorporeal, or any interest therein.
RCW 49.60.040(22) (emphasis added).


LEARN MORE

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.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Statute of Limitations: Hostile Work Environment & The Morgan Analysis

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), how is the statute of limitations calculated for hostile work environment claims? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

Under WLAD, it is an unfair practice, with very few exceptions, for an employer to refuse to hire any person, to discharge or bar any person from employment, or to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of age (40+); sex (including pregnancy); marital statussexual orientation (including gender identity); race; color; creednational originhonorably discharged veteran or military statusHIV/AIDS and hepatitis C status; the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and state employee or health care whistleblower status. It is also an unfair practice for an employer to retaliate against an employee because the employee complained about job discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.


STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS: THE MORGAN ANALYSIS

A statute of limitations is a law that bars claims after a specified period; a statute establishing a time limit for suing in a civil case. Black's Law Dictionary 1450-51 (8th ed.2004). Typically, "[d]iscrimination claims must be brought within three years under the general three-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions." Antonius v. King County, 153 Wn.2d 256, 261-62, 103 P.3d (2004) (citing RCW 4.16.080(2)). However, the statute of limitations for a hostile work environment claim is calculated using the Morgan Analysis, because the objectionable practice does not necessarily occur on a particular day.

Under the Morgan Analysis:
[W]here a discrete act of discrimination is alleged, the limitations period runs from the act. Antonius, 153 Wash.2d at 264, 103 P.3d 729. But for a hostile work environment claim, the objectionable practice does not occur on a particular day. Id. Thus, conduct throughout the time the acts occurred could be considered if the plaintiff presented evidence that one or more acts took place within three years of when the claim was filed. Id. Accordingly, " [u]nder Morgan, a ‘ court's task is to determine whether the acts about which an employee complains are part of the same actionable hostile work environment practice, and if so, whether any act falls within the statutory time period.’ " Id. at 271, 103 P.3d 729 (quoting Morgan, 536 U.S. at 120, 122 S.Ct. 2061). " The acts must have some relationship to each other to constitute part of the same hostile work environment claim." Id. If no relationship exists, " or if ‘ for some other reason, such as certain intervening action by the employer’ the act is ‘ no longer part of the same hostile environment claim, then the employee cannot recover for the previous acts' as part of one hostile work environment claim." Id. (quoting Morgan, 536 U.S. at 118, 122 S.Ct. 2061).
Cox v. Oasis Physical Therapy, PLLC, 153 Wn.App. 176, 195-96, 222 P.3d 119, (Div. 3 2009) (hyperlinks added).


CONCLUSION

The statute of limitations for a hostile work environment claim under WLAD is typically three years. However, when the court addresses an actionable hostile work environment practice, it may consider acts occurring outside of the three-year statute of limitations period if the plaintiff shows that one or more acts that are part of that same actionable hostile work environment practice happened within three years of when the underlying claim was filed.


LEARN MORE

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.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Statute of Limitations: Discrete Discriminatory & Retaliatory Acts

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), what is the statute of limitations for claims based upon discrete discriminatory and retaliatory acts? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

Under WLAD, it is an unfair practice, with very few exceptions, for an employer to refuse to hire any person, to discharge or bar any person from employment, or to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of age (40+); sex (including pregnancy); marital statussexual orientation (including gender identity); race; color; creednational originhonorably discharged veteran or military statusHIV/AIDS and hepatitis C status; the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and state employee or health care whistleblower status. It is also an unfair practice for an employer to retaliate against an employee because the employee complained about job discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.


THREE YEAR STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

A statute of limitations is a law that bars claims after a specified period; a statute establishing a time limit for suing in a civil case. Black's Law Dictionary 1450-51 (8th ed.2004). Typically, "[d]iscrimination claims must be brought within three years under the general three-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions." Antonius v. King County, 153 Wn.2d 256, 261-62, 103 P.3d (2004) (citing RCW 4.16.080(2)). And "where a discrete act of discrimination is alleged, the limitations period runs from the act." Id. at 264. Discrete discriminatory or retaliatory acts include, but are not limited to termination, failure to promote, denial of transfer, refusal to hire, etc. See id. at 264 (citing Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 108-13, 122 S.Ct. 2061, 153 L.Ed.2d 106 (2002)).

NOTE: this statute of limitations period only applies to the statutory legal theories described herein. Filing an employment discrimination claim with an administrative agency such as the Washington State Human Rights Commission or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will also involve administrative time limits that may be significantly shorter than the underlying statutory legal theory. In any event, time is critical for employment discrimination claims; speak to an attorney to learn more.


SPECIAL TREATMENT: HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT

The statute of limitations for acts supporting a hostile work environment claim is calculated differently than for discrete discriminatory and retaliatory acts, because the objectionable practice does not necessarily occur on a particular day. I will address this topic in a separate article.


LEARN MORE

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.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

WLAD: Definition of Employment Agency

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | What is the definition of the term “employment agency” under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD)? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).

WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

Under WLAD, it is an unfair practice, with very few exceptions, for an employer to refuse to hire any person, to discharge or bar any person from employment, or to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of age (40+); sex (including pregnancy); marital statussexual orientation (including gender identity); race; color; creednational originhonorably discharged veteran or military statusHIV/AIDS and hepatitis C status; the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and state employee or health care whistleblower status. It is also an unfair practice for an employer to retaliate against an employee because the employee complained about job discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

DEFINITION OF EMPLOYMENT AGENCY

Chapter 49.60.040(12) RCW is the relevant law, and it defines the term “employment agency” as follows:
"Employment agency" includes any person undertaking with or without compensation to recruit, procure, refer, or place employees for an employer.
RCW 49.60.040(12) (emphasis added) (hyperlinks added).


LEARN MORE

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.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Washington State Human Rights Commission Complaints

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), who may file a complaint with the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC)? Here’s my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).

WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

Under WLAD, it is an unfair practice, with very few exceptions, for an employer to refuse to hire any person, to discharge or bar any person from employment, or to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of age (40+); sex (including pregnancy); marital statussexual orientation (including gender identity); race; color; creednational originhonorably discharged veteran or military statusHIV/AIDS and hepatitis C status; the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and state employee or health care whistleblower status. It is also an unfair practice for an employer to retaliate against an employee because the employee complained about job discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

WASHINGTON STATE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

The WSHRC was established by the Washington State Legislature in 1949, and it "is a state agency responsible for administering and enforcing the Washington Law Against Discrimination." WSHRC Official Website, last accessed 4/18/18. One of its powers, inter alia, is the ability "to receive, impartially investigate, and pass upon complaints alleging unfair practices as defined in ... [the WLAD]." RCW 49.60.120(4).

"If the facts as stated in the complaint do not constitute an unfair practice under ... [WLAD], a finding of no reasonable cause may be made without further investigation." RCW 49.60.240(1)(a). However, "[i]f the facts as stated could constitute an unfair practice under ... [WLAD], a full investigation and ascertainment of the facts shall be conducted." Id. And "[i]f the finding is made that there is reasonable cause for believing that an unfair practice has been or is being committed, the commission's staff shall immediately endeavor to eliminate the unfair practice by conference, conciliation, and persuasion." RCW 49.60.240(3).

WHO MAY FILE A COMPLAINT WITH THE WSHRC

According to the WLAD, the following may file a complaint with the WSHRC:
(1) Who may file a complaint:
(a) Any person claiming to be aggrieved by an alleged unfair practice may, personally or by his or her attorney, make, sign, and file with the commission a complaint in writing under oath or by declaration. The complaint shall state the name of the person alleged to have committed the unfair practice and the particulars thereof, and contain such other information as may be required by the commission.
(b) Whenever it has reason to believe that any person has been engaged or is engaging in an unfair practice, the commission may issue a complaint.
(c) Any employer or principal whose employees, or agents, or any of them, refuse or threaten to refuse to comply with the provisions of this chapter may file with the commission a written complaint under oath or by declaration asking for assistance by conciliation or other remedial action.
RCW 49.60.230 (emphasis and hyperlinks added).


LEARN MORE

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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Significant Differences Between Title VII & WLAD Backpay Provisions

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), are there significant differences between their respective backpay provisions? Here’s my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


THE DAMAGES PROVISIONS

The relevant damages provision of Title VII states as follows:
(2) Exclusions from compensatory damages
Compensatory damages awarded under this section shall not include backpay, interest on backpay, or any other type of relief authorized under section 706(g) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [42 U.S.C. 2000e–5(g)]
42 U.S.C. § 1981a(b)(2) (hyperlink added). And the relevant damages provision of WLAD states as follows:
(2) Any person deeming himself or herself injured by any act in violation of this chapter shall have a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction to enjoin further violations, or to recover the actual damages sustained by the person, or both, together with the cost of suit including reasonable attorneys' fees or any other appropriate remedy authorized by this chapter or the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964....
RCW 49.60.030(2) (emphasis added) (hyperlinks added). Title VII and WLAD differ significantly in terms of plain language, operative-term usage, and scope.


DIFFERENCE IN PLAIN LANGUAGE

The plain language of Title VII and WLAD show that each law treats backpay differently than the other. The court in Martini explained the difference, as follows:
The remedies section of Washington's law against discrimination is therefore radically different from the remedies section of Title VII. Title VII specifically mentions back pay but excludes such an award from compensatory damages, leaving back pay as primarily an equitable device. But in contrast Washington's law against discrimination provides for a general award of "actual" (or compensatory) damages, with no limitation, qualification, or indication that back pay should be excluded.
Martini v. The Boeing Company, 137 Wn.2d 357, 374-75 (Wash. 1999). Accordingly, WLAD provides a much broader mandate for an award of backpay than Title VII. Both laws can be further distinguished based on their operative terms.


DIFFERENCE IN OPERATIVE-TERM USAGE

Title VII and WLAD each use different operative terms in relation to an award of backpay for breaches of their respective provisions. The court in Martini also addressed this issue, as follows:
The use of the word "may" in the remedies provision of Title VII makes it clear that an award of back pay for a breach of Title VII is not mandated by the statute. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g)(1) (stating that when the statute has been violated, the court "may" order affirmative action which "may" include reinstatement with or without back pay). In contrast, Washington's law against discrimination is more categorical, mandating that a victim of a violation of the statute "shall have a civil action ... to recover the actual damages." RCW 49.60.030(2) (emphasis added).
Martini v. The Boeing Company, 137 Wn.2d at 375 (hyperlinks added). Thus, "[t]he legislative command to award damages is ... stronger in Washington's statute than in title VII." Id., 137 Wn.2d at 375.


DIFFERENCE IN SCOPE

Lastly, the scope of WLAD is broader than Title VII based on both covered protected classes and the mandated policy for interpreting their respective provisions. Particularly, unlike WLAD, Title VII neither covers discrimination based on marital status, age, or disability; nor contains a direction for liberal interpretationId., 137 Wn.2d at 372-73.


CONCLUSION & IMPLICATIONS

Title VII and WLAD have significantly different remedies provisions -- espectially in relation to backpay. Under Title VII, backpay is treated as an equitable remedy, whereas under WLAD it is treated as actual or compensatory damages. Ultimately, "[t]he legislative command to award damages is ... stronger in Washington's statute ...." Id., 137 Wn.2d at 375.

Arguably, the differences in available relief might produce an effective argument against an assertion of the Priority of Action Rule.


LEARN MORE

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.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Overcoming Stare Decisis In WA State

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under Washington State laws, how may a party overcome the doctrine of stare decisis? Here’s my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


STARE DECISIS

The doctrine of stare decisis "promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process." State v. Johnson, 188 Wn.2d 742, 756, 399 P.3d 507 (2017) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). It is a "doctrine developed by courts to accomplish the requisite element of stability in court-made law, but is not an absolute impediment to change." State v. Otton, 185 Wn.2d 673, 678, 374 P.3d 1108 (2016) (citing In re Rights to Waters of Stranger Creek, 77 Wn.2d 649, 653, 466 P.2d 508 (1970)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The court will typically consider a party's request for it to reject its prior decision when it's based upon either one or both of the following two approaches: (1) clear showing; and (2) intervening authority. See State v. Otton, 185 Wn.2d at 678 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

1. THE CLEAR SHOWING APPROACH

The clear-showing approach is far more common than the intervening-authority approach, and it requires the requesting party to clearly show the following: 
1. that the established rule is incorrect; and
2. that the established rule is harmful.
See id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added).

2. THE INTERVENING AUTHORITY APPROACH

The intervening-authority approach is relatively rare. The requesting party essentially asks the court to "eschew prior precedent in deference to intervening authority where the legal underpinnings of ... [the court's] precedent have changed or disappeared altogether." See id. (citing W.G. Clark Constr. Co. v. P. Nw. Reg'l Council of Carpenters, 180 Wn.2d 54, 66, 322 P.3d 1207 (2014) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).


FRAMING THE ISSUE

When a party asks the Washington State Supreme Court to reject its prior decision, "it is an invitation ... [it] ... [does] not take lightly." Id. (citing State v. Barber, 170 Wn.2d 854, 863, 248 P.3d 494 (2011)) (internal quotation marks omitted). According to the court, the issue is framed as follows:
The question is not whether we would make the same decision if the issue presented were a matter of first impression. Instead, the question is whether the prior decision is so problematic that it must be rejected, despite the many benefits of adhering to precedent--" 'promot[ing] the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, foster[ing] reliance on judicial decisions, and contribut[ing] to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process.'"
State v. Otton, 185 Wn.2d at 678 (citing Keene v. Edie, 131 Wn.2d 822, 831, 935 P.2d 588 (1997)) (internal citation omitted) (alteration to original).


LEARN MORE

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State 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.

Actual & Compensatory Damages Are Synonymous Under WLAD

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), are actual damages synonymous with compensatory damagesHere’s my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).

WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

Under WLAD, it is an unfair practice, with very few exceptions, for an employer to refuse to hire any person, to discharge or bar any person from employment, or to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of age (40+); sex (including pregnancy); marital statussexual orientation (including gender identity); race; color; creednational originhonorably discharged veteran or military statusHIV/AIDS and hepatitis C status; the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and state employee or health care whistleblower status. It is also an unfair practice for an employer to retaliate against an employee because the employee complained about job discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

WLAD REMEDIES FOR UNFAIR PRACTICES

WLAD expressly provides for remedies for unfair practices as follows:
Any person deeming himself or herself injured by any act in violation of this chapter shall have a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction to enjoin further violations, or to recover the actual damages sustained by the person, or both, together with the cost of suit including reasonable attorneys' fees or any other appropriate remedy authorized by this chapter or the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964....
Martini v. The Boeing Company, 137 Wn.2d 357, 366-67 (Wash. 1999) (citing RCW 49.60.030(2)) (emphasis and hyperlinks added).

ACTUAL DAMAGES ARE SYNONYMOUS WITH COMPENSATORY DAMAGES

Under WLAD, "'actual damages' are synonymous with compensatory damages." Id. (citing Black's Law Dictionary 35 (6th ed.1990) (hyperlinks added). "As the dictionary definition notes, Washington courts have interpreted the term 'actual damages' in this manner." Id. at 367-68 (internal citations omitted) (hyperlinks added).


LEARN MORE

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.

Friday, April 13, 2018

WLAD & The Constructive Discharge Provision

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), is there a provision for constructive discharge? Here’s my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

Under WLAD, it is an unfair practice, with very few exceptions, for an employer to refuse to hire any person, to discharge or bar any person from employment, or to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of age (40+); sex (including pregnancy); marital statussexual orientation (including gender identity); race; color; creednational originhonorably discharged veteran or military statusHIV/AIDS and hepatitis C status; the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and state employee or health care whistleblower status. It is also an unfair practice for an employer to retaliate against an employee because the employee complained about job discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.


DEFINITION OF CONSTRUCTIVE DISCHARGE

Generally, a constructive discharge occurs "where an employer forces an employee to quit by making that employee's work conditions intolerable." Martini v. The Boeing Company, 137 Wn.2d 357 (Wash. 1999) at fn. 3 (citing Barrett v. Weyerhaeuser Co. Severance Pay Plan, 40 Wash.App. 630, 631, 700 P.2d 338 (1985)). "The doctrine of constructive discharge has been described by this court as requiring 'a deliberate act of the employer creating the intolerable condition, without regard to the employer's mental state as to the resulting consequence." Martini, 137 Wn.2d at 366 (citing Bulaich, v. AT & T Info. Sys., 113 Wash.2d 254, 261, 778 P.2d 1031 (1989)) (hyperlink added). Take our Constructive Discharge Test:



THE CONSTRUCTIVE DISCHARGE PROVISION

RCW 49.60.180(2) is a subsection of WLAD that deals with discharge of an employee. It "has been interpreted to include a prohibition against constructive discharge." Martini, 137 Wn.2d at 366 (citing Bulaich v. AT & T Info. Sys., 113 Wash.2d 254, 259, 778 P.2d 1031 (1989)) (hyperlink added).


LEARN MORE

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.