County settles sexual harassment suit for $350K

Accusations centered on human services and contractors.

EVERETT — Snohomish County has agreed to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by two women who accused a male supervisor at the human services department of years of inappropriate workplace behavior.

The total combined settlement for the county and two other organizations was $800,000.

The legal complaint described a pattern of unwanted hugging, kissing and comments. The women said they were threatened with retaliation, including the loss of their jobs, when they tried to make it stop. They said other managers, supervisors and some co-workers contributed to the intimidating workplace atmosphere.

They did not work directly for the county. They were employed by Lutheran Community Services and later the Stillaguamish Senior Center, with whom the county contracted at different times for programs.

Under the agreement, the county agreed to pay $350,000. The County Council approved the settlement last week. The Daily Herald obtained a copy under state public records laws.

The agreement includes payment of $300,000 from SeaTac-based Lutheran Community Services.

The Stillaguamish Senior Center settled separately for $150,000.

County officials declined to comment on the agreement, but confirmed that the supervisor continues to work at the human services department. A spokesman for Lutheran Community Services did not return calls for comment. An administrator at the Stillaguamish Senior Center referred questions to an attorney.

The women filed their lawsuit last year in King County Superior Court.

It alleges years of verbal and physical harassment before the fall of 2015, when each filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint at the county. One of the women said she was excluded from essential training as a result. Both said they felt their job security was threatened. They alleged that the county and other defendants should have been aware of the allegations, but failed to address them.

The settlements include no admission of wrongdoing by the defendants. The women agreed to drop all claims. They were represented by Seattle-based attorney Robin Williams Phillips.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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