SPOKANE — Four women who said the Spokane Country Club denied them full benefits because of their gender have won a $500,000 jury award.
The verdict on Thursday caps a five-year legal battle over the club’s practice of allowing male members premium golf tee-times and barring women from certain areas of the restaurant, The Spokesman-Review reported Friday.
Lawyers for the club say it has been making changes, such as removing the name “Men’s Grill” from a portion of the restaurant.
The women, Drusilla Hieber, Laura Skaer, Nancy Van Noy and Tracy Christensen had sued for $4.5 million. The Spokane County Superior Court jury awarded Skaer $34,721, Hieber $185,464, Van Noy $184,299 and Christensen $174,061, plus $150,000 in noneconomic damages for all except Skaer.
The club’s board of directors continued the 115-year tradition of giving men premium tee-times on Wednesdays and Saturdays while directing women to play on Tuesdays or Thursdays, Mary Schultz, an attorney for the women, said Wednesday in closing arguments.,
“The world has moved on,” Schultz told the jury. “Washington has moved on. Discrimination is not controlled by the majority or who plays more rounds. It’s against the law to establish gender-based practices.”
The club’s lawyers Matt Anderson and Kevin Breck said it has been making modifications.
“What brought you to this courtroom was a dispute over tee times that started in 2008,” Anderson said in his closing argument. “This is just a disagreement. The four plaintiffs believe there should be no gender-based events, period. The other members disagree.”
Most of the club’s 630 golf players are men, he said. He also pointed out that Van Noy golfed 77 rounds in 2011 and 2012.
“Does that look like someone who has been denied the full opportunity to enjoy her course?” Anderson asked. “To come to court and say they don’t let me play on Wednesdays is disingenuous and unfair.”
There are tournaments in which only men play and some in which only women play, and two of the plaintiffs “not only had an opportunity to play in them, they designed” the tournaments, he said.
The jury was unanimous in its decision that all women were discriminated against by the club, but one member of the jury did not agree on the noneconomic damages.
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com