EVERETT — Everett Community College has settled a lawsuit for $150,000 with a woman who claimed she was discriminated against based on a disability when she was fired in 2019.
The complaint, filed in Snohomish County Superior Court in 2019, recounts a more than two-year saga after Betty Fletcher, a campus security sergeant, was diagnosed with a knee injury that affected her work.
In a response to Fletcher’s complaint, the college wrote that its conduct was “legitimate, non-retaliatory and non-discriminatory.” It also claimed it “at all times acted in good faith.” The college told The Daily Herald this week that it could not comment on legal or personnel issues.
Fletcher started working as a parking enforcement officer at the college in 2006. She rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a campus security sergeant in 2014 or 2015.
She was diagnosed with a partial tear in a ligament in her right knee in 2016. She then filed a claim for worker compensation benefits with the state Department of Labor and Industries. The department approved the claim in 2017.
Meanwhile, a college employee who worked under Fletcher reported racial discrimination by another supervisor.
In an interview with an investigator hired by EvCC to look into the accusation, Fletcher detailed the racial discrimination she’d observed by the other supervisor.
The investigator then became combative and urged Fletcher to change her story, the lawsuit claims. She refused. The college denied those assertions in court filings.
After that episode, the college put Fletcher on administrative leave in April 2018 and “forced her to undergo a psychiatric evaluation,” according to the complaint. EvCC countered that it “requested” such an examination. The psychiatrist found Fletcher fit to work, but she wasn’t allowed to return to the job until June 2018, the lawsuit claims.
The next month, Fletcher requested the college give her a lighter workload. The college agreed. In August 2018, she asked to take a medical leave of absence for much of the month. Fletcher’s doctor said in late August she could go back to the lighter workload.
She then asked EvCC to better accommodate her disability. The complaint claims there were jobs suitable to Fletcher’s physical restrictions, but the college “refused to discuss with her whether it could accommodate her disability.” The college denied there were other positions to which Fletcher could have shifted.
Then in March 2019, the college fired Fletcher.
She asked to be reinstated that May. But a few days later, the lawsuit alleges, the college refused to give Fletcher her job back because she requested accommodations and filed complaints over workplace violations. EvCC denied this.
“The (college) wrongfully placed (Fletcher) on administrative leave, forced her to undergo an unnecessary mental examination, and refused to allow her to return to work, even after being released by EvCC’s psychiatrist, and, ultimately, terminated her,” the complaint reads.
The case was to go to trial, but in mid-June the college settled the lawsuit for $150,000. Of that, $30,000 were considered wages. By settling, EvCC is not admitting to any wrongdoing.
“Ultimately, EvCC did the right thing,” said Timothy Emery, Fletcher’s attorney. “They made my client whole.”
Emery called the settlement a “very fair resolution.” He said in an email Fletcher is now focused on moving on with a new career.
Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; email@example.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.