Retaliatory Discharge (WA State)

Retaliatory Discharge (WA State)

Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), what is the prima facie case for retaliatory discharge? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).



Under the WLAD, it is considered an unfair practice for an employer to discriminate against a person opposing unfair practices. The relevant section states as follows:

Unfair practices—Discrimination against person opposing unfair practice—Retaliation against whistleblower.

(1) It is an unfair practice for any employer, employment agency, labor union, or other person to discharge, expel, or otherwise discriminate against any person because he or she has opposed any practices forbidden by this chapter, or because he or she has filed a charge, testified, or assisted in any proceeding under this chapter.

(2) It is an unfair practice for a government agency or government manager or supervisor to retaliate against a whistleblower as defined in chapter 42.40 RCW.

(3) It is an unfair practice for any employeremployment agencylabor union, government agency, government manager, or government supervisor to discharge, expel, discriminate, or otherwise retaliate against an individual assisting with an office of fraud and accountability investigation under RCW 74.04.012, unless the individual has willfully disregarded the truth in providing information to the office.

RCW 49.60.210 (hyperlinks added).

Thus, pursuant to sub-section 1, "It is an unfair practice for any employer … to discharge, expel, or otherwise discriminate against any person because he or she has opposed any practices forbidden by this chapter." Davis v. West One Automotive Group, 140 Wn.App. 449, 460, 166 P.3d 807 (Wash.App. Div. 3 3007), review denied, 163 Wn.2d 1039 (Wash. 2008) (citing Kahn v. Salerno, 90 Wash.App. 110, 128, 951 P.2d 321 (quoting RCW 49.60.210(1)), review denied, 136 Wash.2d 1016, 966 P.2d 1277 (1998)) (internal quotation marks omitted) (hyperlinks added). 

Moreover, "[a]n employer need only be motivated in part by retaliatory influences when discharging an employee engaged in protected activity to violate the statute." Id. (internal citation omitted) (hyperlinks added).


"In order to establish a prima facie case of retaliatory discharge, … [a plaintiff] must show[:]

(1) he engaged in a statutorily protected activity

(2) he was discharged or had some adverse employment action taken against him; and 

(3) retaliation was a substantial motive behind the adverse employment action.

Id. (internal citation omitted) (emphasis, hyperlinks, and paragraph formatting added).


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; please see our DISCLAIMER.


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