Seattle, Washington - The Justice Department has filed a complaint against Asotin County, Washington, alleging that the County discriminated against a female deputy clerk on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.  The United States and Asotin County also filed a joint notice of settlement informing the court that they plan to submit a proposed consent decree that, if approved and entered by the court, would resolve the United States’ complaint.

The complaint, which was filed by the United States in the Eastern District of Washington, alleges that an Asotin County deputy clerk was subjected to sexually harassing conduct by a former Superior Court judge, including both physical touching and verbal harassment, creating a hostile work environment and that the County negligently failed to take prompt and adequate action to stop the harassment. The joint notice of settlement describes the general terms of the proposed consent decree. If the consent decree is approved by the court, Asotin County will offer the female deputy clerk $100,000 in compensatory damages. Asotin County also must designate individuals responsible for receiving and investigating employees’ complaints of harassment for the duration of the decree, maintain and adhere to a written policy addressing sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, and provide mandatory training regarding Title VII’s prohibitions against sex discrimination to all its employees.

“No employee should be subject to unlawful sexual harassment on the job, and the Justice Department is committed to holding employers accountable when they fail to act promptly to protect employees and stop the unlawful conduct,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The proposed consent decree requires the County to undertake comprehensive actions necessary to protect employees from sex harassment, and effective measures to receive and investigate complaints of discrimination and harassment.”

“Discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace are unlawful,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joseph Harrington for the Eastern District of Washington. “An employer’s failure to take affirmative acts to intervene in response to discrimination and/or sexual harassment reports violates federal law, and risks an investigation and corrective measures by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The County’s voluntary agreement with the terms and conditions of the consent decree will ensure that future reports of sexual harassment and/or discrimination will be addressed promptly and thoroughly.” 

The female deputy clerk filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC’s Seattle Field Office investigated the charge and made a reasonable cause finding. After unsuccessful conciliation efforts, the EEOC referred the charge to the Justice Department.

The Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section brought the case in collaboration with the U.S. Attorneys’ Office for the Eastern District of Washington.