Washington Law Against Discrimination Is Potent

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | The Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) is a potent statute that places plaintiffs in the role of a private attorney general. How potent is the statute? Here’s my point of view (please review our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy Notice before proceeding).

THE PURPOSE OF WLAD

The Washington State Supreme Court has held that the purpose of the WLAD is to deter and eradicate discrimination in Washington. Fraternal Order of Eagles, Tenino Aerie No. 564 v. Grand Aerie of Fraternal Order of Eagles, 148 Wn.2d 224, 246, 59 P.3d 655, (Wash. 2002). This is a policy of the highest order. Id. Accordingly, WLAD requires a liberal construction in order to accomplish the purposes of the law and states that nothing contained in the law shall “be construed to deny the right to any person to institute any action or pursue any civil or criminal remedy based upon an alleged violation of his or her civil rights.” Marquis v. City of Spokane, 130 Wn.2d 97, 108, 922 P.2d 43, (Wash. 1996). The legislative purpose of the WLAD is codified in RCW 49.60.010 which provides as follows:

This chapter shall be known as the “law against discrimination.” It is an exercise of the police power of the state for the protection of the public welfare, health, and peace of the people of this state, and in fulfillment of the provisions of the Constitution of this state concerning civil rights. The legislature hereby finds and declares that practices of discrimination against any of its inhabitants because of race, creed, color, national origin, families with children, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability are a matter of state concern, that such discrimination threatens not only the rights and proper privileges of its inhabitants but menaces the institutions and foundation of a free democratic state. A state agency is herein created with powers with respect to elimination and prevention of discrimination in employment, in credit and insurance transactions, in places of public resort, accommodation, or amusement, and in real property transactions because of race, creed, color, national origin, families with children, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and the commission established hereunder is hereby given general jurisdiction and power for such purposes.

RCW 49.60.010 (emphasis added) (NOTE: the last sentence refers to the Washington State Human Rights Commission).

LIBERAL CONSTRUCTION

Further RCW 49.60.020 mandates a liberal construction of WLAD as follows:

The provisions of this chapter shall be construed liberally for the accomplishment of the purposes thereof. Nothing contained in this chapter shall be deemed to repeal any of the provisions of any other law of this state relating to discrimination because of race, color, creed, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, other than a law which purports to require or permit doing any act which is an unfair practice under this chapter. Nor shall anything herein contained be construed to deny the right to any person to institute any action or pursue any civil or criminal remedy based upon an alleged violation of his or her civil rights. This chapter shall not be construed to endorse any specific belief, practice, behavior, or orientation. Inclusion of sexual orientation in this chapter shall not be construed to modify or supersede state law relating to marriage.

RCW 49.60.020 (emphasis added).

Moreover, Washington courts have held that a declaration of policy in a legislative act serves as an important guide in determining the intended effect of the operative sections. See Kilian v. Atkinson, 147 Wn.2d 16, 23, 50 P.3d 638, (Wash. 2002) (internal citation omitted). Thus, it is no surprise that the Washington State Supreme Court has held that a statutory mandate of liberal construction requires that “we view with caution any construction that would narrow the coverage of the law.” See Marquis v. City of Spokane, 130 Wn.2d 97, 108, 922 P.2d 43, (Wash. 1996) (citing Shoreline Community College Dist. No. 7 v. Employment Sec. Dep’t, 120 Wash.2d 394, 406, 842 P.2d 938 (1992)) (quotations omitted).

PRIVATE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Ultimately, a plaintiff bringing a discrimination case in Washington assumes the role of a private attorney general, vindicating a policy of the highest priority. See Marquis v. City of Spokane, 130 Wn.2d 97, 109, 922 P.2d 43, (Wash. 1996).

L E A R N   M O R E

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced employment discrimination attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible. This article is not offered as legal advice and will not establish an attorney-client relationship with Williams Law Group, Law Office of Gregory A. Williams, P.S., inc., or the author of this article. Please read our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy notice.

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Purpose of WA Law Against Discrimination

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | What is the purpose of the Washington Law Against Discrimination? Here’s my point of view (please review our disclaimer before proceeding).

The purpose of the Washington Law Against Discrimination as contained under chapter 49.60 RCW is as follows:

This chapter shall be known as the “law against discrimination.” It is an exercise of the police power of the state for the protection of the public welfare, health, and peace of the people of this state, and in fulfillment of the provisions of the Constitution of this state concerning civil rights. The legislature hereby finds and declares that practices of discrimination against any of its inhabitants because of race, creed, color, national origin, families with children, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability are a matter of state concern, that such discrimination threatens not only the rights and proper privileges of its inhabitants but menaces the institutions and foundation of a free democratic state

RCW 49.60.010 (emphasis added).

L E A R N   M O R E

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced employment discrimination attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible. This article is not offered as legal advice and will not establish an attorney-client relationship with Williams Law Group, Law Office of Gregory A. Williams, P.S., inc., or the author of this article. Please read our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy Notice.

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HARASSMENT: Because of Membership in a Protected Class

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), how can a plaintiff show that harassment can be imputed to the employer? Here’s my point of view (please review our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy Notice before proceeding).

WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

The WLAD, RCW Chapter 49.60, provides specific protections for employees against a hostile work environment (also known as “harassment“). Specifically, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms or conditions of employment because of a protected class. Protected Classes relating to employment discrimination include race or color; national origin; creed; sex or pregnancy; sexual orientation or gender identity; veteran or military status; presence of any sensory, mental, or physical actual disability or perceived disability; use of a service animal; HIV or hepatitis C; marital status; and age.  Importantly, WLAD defines an employer as any person acting in the interest of an employer, directly or indirectly, who employs eight or more persons, and does not include any religious or sectarian organization not organized for private profit.

THE PRIMA FACIE CASE

Generally, to establish a prima facie claim of hostile work environment against an employer, the employee must produce competent evidence of each of the following four elements: (1) that the harassment was offensive and unwelcome; (2) that it occurred because of the employee’s membership in a Protected Class; (3) that it affected the terms and conditions of employment/membership; and (4) that the harassment can be imputed to the employer. This article will address the second element: how harassment can occur because of the employee’s membership in a protected class.

BECAUSE OF MEMBERSHIP IN PROTECTED CLASS

In order to establish the 2nd element of a prima facie hostile work environment claim, the plaintiff must show that the harassment occurred because of the employee’s membership in a Protected Class. This element typically “requires that the [protected class] of the plaintiff-employee be the motivating factor for the unlawful discrimination.” See Robel v. Roundup Corporation, 148 Wn.2d 35, 46, 59 P.3d 611 (Wash. 2002) (citing Glasgow v. Georgia Pacific Corp., 103 Wn.2d 401, 406 (Wash. 1985)). There must be a “nexus between the specific harassing conduct and the particular injury.” Id.

L E A R N   M O R E

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State employment discrimination attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible. This article is not offered as legal advice and will not establish an attorney-client relationship with Williams Law Group, Law Office of Gregory A. Williams, P.S., Inc., or the author of this article. Please read our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy notice.

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HARASSMENT: Imputing Conduct to Employers

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), how can a plaintiff show that harassment can be imputed to the employer? Here’s my point of view (please review our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy Notice before proceeding).

WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

The WLAD, RCW Chapter 49.60, provides specific protections for employees against a hostile work environment (also known as “harassment“). Specifically, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms or conditions of employment because of a protected class. Protected Classes relating to employment discrimination include race or color; national origin; creed; sex or pregnancy; sexual orientation or gender identity; veteran or military status; presence of any sensory, mental, or physical actual disability or perceived disability; use of a service animal; HIV or hepatitis C; marital status; and age.  Importantly, WLAD defines an employer as any person acting in the interest of an employer, directly or indirectly, who employs eight or more persons, and does not include any religious or sectarian organization not organized for private profit.

THE PRIMA FACIE CASE

Generally, to establish a prima facie claim of hostile work environment against an employer, the employee must produce competent evidence of each of the following four elements: (1) that the harassment was offensive and unwelcome; (2) that it occurred because of the employee’s membership in a Protected Class; (3) that it affected the terms and conditions of employment/membership; and (4) that the harassment can be imputed to the employer. This article will address the last element: how harassment can be imputed to the employer.

IMPUTING CONDUCT TO THE EMPLOYER

In order to establish the 4th element of a prima facie hostile work environment claim, the plaintiff must show that the harassment can be imputed to the employer. Generally, a plaintiff can impute harassment to the employer based on the positional level of the harassing employee.

1.  Owners, Managers, Partners, or Corporate Officers

When “an owner, manager, partner or corporate officer personally participates in the harassment, this element is met by such proof.” Glasgow v. Georgia-Pacific Corporation, 103 Wn.2d 401, 407 (Wash. 1985).

2.  Supervisors or Co-workers

However, “to hold an employer responsible for the discriminatory work environment created by a plaintiff’s supervisor(s) or co-worker(s), the employee must show that the employer (a) authorized, knew, or should have known of the harassment and (b) failed to take reasonably prompt and adequate corrective action.” Id. The plaintiff can show this “by proving (a) that complaints were made to the employer through higher managerial or supervisory personnel or by proving such a pervasiveness of … harassment at the work place as to create an inference of the employer’s knowledge or constructive knowledge of it and (b) that the employer’s remedial action was not of such nature as to have been reasonably calculated to end the harassment.” Id.

AVOIDING LIABILITY

In relation to the fourth element, an employer may ordinarily avoid liability by taking prompt and adequate corrective action when it learns that an employee is being harassed based on a protected class. See id. at 408.

L E A R N   M O R E

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State employment discrimination attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible. This article is not offered as legal advice and will not establish an attorney-client relationship with Williams Law Group, Law Office of Gregory A. Williams, P.S., Inc., or the author of this article. Please read our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy notice.

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HARASSMENT: Offensive Conduct

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), how can a plaintiff prove that harassment was offensive? Here’s my point of view (please review our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy Notice before proceeding).

WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

The WLAD, RCW Chapter 49.60, provides specific protections for employees against a hostile work environment (also known as “harassment“). Specifically, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms or conditions of employment because of a protected class. Protected Classes relating to employment discrimination include race or color; national origin; creed; sex or pregnancy; sexual orientation or gender identity; veteran or military status; presence of any sensory, mental, or physical actual disability or perceived disability; use of a service animal; HIV or hepatitis C; marital status; and age.  Importantly, WLAD defines an employer as any person acting in the interest of an employer, directly or indirectly, who employs eight or more persons, and does not include any religious or sectarian organization not organized for private profit..

THE PRIMA FACIE CASE

Generally, to establish a prima facie claim of hostile work environment against an employer, the employee must produce competent evidence of each of the following four elements: (1) that the harassment was offensive and unwelcome; (2) that it occurred because of the employee’s membership in a protected class; (3) that it affected the terms and conditions of employment/membership; and (4) that the harassment can be imputed to the employer. See Glasgow v. Georgia Pacific Corp., 103 Wn.2d 401, 406 (Wash. 1985). This article will address the first (1st) element — that the harassment was offensive and unwelcome.

OFFENSIVE & UNWELCOME CONDUCT

To establish offensive and unwelcome conduct, the complained of conduct must be unwelcome in the sense that the victim-employee did not solicit or incite it, and in the further sense that he/she regarded the conduct as undesirable or offensive. Id. Accordingly, internal complaints about the harassment are evidence that the plaintiff subjectively believed he/she was being harassed. Thus, it should be evident that complaints of discrimination to your employer-management can be a powerful step in eventually seeking recourse upon claims of employment discrimination under WLAD.

L E A R N   M O R E

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State employment discrimination attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible. This article is not offered as legal advice and will not establish an attorney-client relationship with Williams Law Group, Law Office of Gregory A. Williams, P.S., Inc., or the author of this article. Please read our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy notice.

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HARASSMENT: Terms & Conditions of Employment

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), how can a plaintiff prove that harassment affected the terms and conditions of employment? Here’s my point of view (please review our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy Notice before proceeding).

WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

The WLAD, RCW Chapter 49.60, provides specific protections for employees against a hostile work environment (also known as “harassment“). Specifically, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms or conditions of employment because of a protected class. Protected Classes relating to employment discrimination include race or color; national origin; creed; sex or pregnancy; sexual orientation or gender identity; veteran or military status; presence of any sensory, mental, or physical actual disability or perceived disability; use of a service animal; HIV or hepatitis C; marital status; and age.  Importantly, WLAD defines an employer as any person acting in the interest of an employer, directly or indirectly, who employs eight or more persons, and does not include any religious or sectarian organization not organized for private profit.

THE PRIMA FACIE CASE

Generally, to establish a prima facie claim of hostile work environment against an employer, the employee must produce competent evidence of each of the following four elements: (1) that the harassment was offensive and unwelcome; (2) that it occurred because of the employee’s membership in a protected class; (3) that it affected the terms and conditions of employment/membership; and (4) that the harassment can be imputed to the employer. See Glasgow v. Georgia Pacific Corp., 103 Wn.2d 401, 406 (Wash. 1985). This article will address the third (3rd) element — that it affected the terms and conditions of employment.

TERMS & CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT

To establish the third element, the employee must prove that the wrongful conduct affected his or her terms or conditions of employment. Conduct affects the terms or conditions of employment if it is sufficiently pervasive so as to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment. Id. However, there is no requirement that the plaintiff prove actual psychological harm as long as the environment would reasonably be perceived, and is perceived, as hostile or abusive.

Whether conduct meets this test depends on the totality of the circumstances. Id. at 406-07. The totality of the circumstances test includes consideration of the frequency of the discriminatory conduct, its severity, whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance. Moreover, offensive comments do not all need to be made directly to an employee for a work environment to be considered hostile.

However, “casual, isolated or trivial manifestations of a discriminatory environment do not affect the terms or conditions of employment to a sufficiently significant degree to violate the law.” Id. at 406.

L E A R N   M O R E

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible. This article is not offered as legal advice and will not establish an attorney-client relationship with Williams Law Group, Law Office of Gregory A. Williams, P.S., Inc., or the author of this article. Please read our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy notice.

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The Washington State Human Rights Commission

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under Washington law, what is the Washington State Human Rights Commission? Here’s my point of view (please review our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy Notice before proceeding).

A WA STATE AGENCY

The Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) is a state agency established in 1949 and assigned the duty to administer and enforce the Washington Law Against Discrimination. Its mission is to eliminate and prevent discrimination in Washington State through the fair application of the law, efficient use of resources, and establishment of productive partnerships in the community.

WA LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

The law that the WSHRC is assigned to administer and enforce is contained in Chapter 49.60 Revised Code of Washington (RCW). Also known as the Washington Law Against Discrimination, this state law prohibits discriminatory practices in the areas of employment, places of public resort, accommodation, or amusement, in real estate transactions, and credit and insurance transactions on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, families with children, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and prohibits retaliation against persons who oppose a discriminatory practice, and those who file health care and state employee whistleblower complaints.

HOW WSHRC OPERATES

According to the official WSHRC website, the WSHRC operates as follows:

There are five Commissioners appointed by the Governor, who appoint an Executive Director. The Executive Director appoints investigative staff, clerks, and other employees as needed to conduct the day-to-day operations of the agency. The Commissioners provide policy direction, adopt regulations, and meet monthly to pass upon the investigative finding determinations recommended by staff, review and approve settlement agreements, and issue Board Orders setting forth the terms of the legally binding agreements and may vote to grant or deny requests for reconsideration of previously issued investigative findings.

WSHRC Official Website.

FILING A CHARGE

Any individual who believes that he or she has been discriminated against based on protected class status may file a charge of discrimination with the WSHRC. The online application is available [here].

Learn More

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced employment discrimination attorney. This article is not offered as legal advice and will not establish an attorney-client relationship with Williams Law Group, Law Office of Gregory A. Williams, P.S., Inc., or the author of this article; please refer to our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy notice for more information.

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WLAD: Hostile Work Environment

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under Washington’s Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), RCW Chapter 49.60, it is illegal for an http://gawlaw.org/blog/wlad-definition-employer/employer to discriminate based on protected classes in employment.

PROTECTED CLASSES

Protected Classes relating to employment discrimination include race or color; national origin; creed; sex or pregnancy; sexual orientation or gender identity; veteran or military status; presence of any sensory, mental, or physical actual disability or perceived disability; use of a service animal; HIV or hepatitis C; marital status; and age.  Importantly, WLAD defines an employer as any person acting in the interest of an employer, directly or indirectly, who employs eight or more persons, and does not include any religious or sectarian organization not organized for private profit.

HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT (HARASSMENT)

WLAD provides specific protections for employees against a hostile work environment. Specifically, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms or conditions of employment because of a Protected Class.

THE PRIMA FACIE CASE

Generally, to establish a prima facie claim of hostile work environment against an employer, the employee must produce competent evidence of each of the following four elements: (1) that the harassment was offensive and unwelcome; (2) that it occurred because of the employee’s membership in a protected class; (3) that it affected the terms and conditions of employment/membership; and (4) that the harassment can be imputed to the employerSee Glasgow v. Georgia Pacific Corp., 103 Wn.2d 401, 406 (Wash. 1985).

For a claim of disability based hostile work environment, the plaintiff must initially prove that he or she was disabled within the meaning of the WLAD in addition to the four elements above. Robel v. Roundup Corporation, 148 Wn.2d 35, 45, 59 P.3d 611 (Wash. 2002).


Take our Hostile Work Environment Test below:

Learn More

If you believe that you’ve been a victim of a hostile work environment and would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced employment discrimination attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible. This article is not offered as legal advice and will not establish an attorney-client relationship with Williams Law Group, Law Office of Gregory A. Williams, P.S., Inc., or the author of this article. Please read our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy Notice.

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The Washington Law Against Discrimination

By Gregory Williams, Esq. | What is the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD)? Here’s my point of view (please review our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy Notice before proceeding).

The WLAD, RCW 49.60, is a powerful state law that prohibits discriminatory practices in the areas of employment, places of public resort, accommodation, or amusement, in real estate transactions, and credit and insurance transactions based on protected classes. This article will address solely the area of employment.

DECLARATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS

In the state of Washington, the right to be free from discrimination because of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability is recognized as and declared to be a civil right. RCW 49.60.030(1). This right includes, but is not be limited to the right to obtain and hold employment without discrimination. RCW 49.60.030(1)(a).

PROTECTED CLASSES

The essence of unlawful employment discrimination is the application of unreasonable generalizations about people to the hiring, promotion and discharge of workers; to be unlawful, these generalizations must be based on protected classes under WLAD. See Barnes v. Washington Natural Gas Co., 22 Wn.App. 576, 582, 591 P.2d 461 (Div. 1 1979).

Protected classes under WLAD include age; color and race; creed; families with children; honorably discharged veteran or military status; national origin; marital status; sex; sexual orientation and gender identity; the presence of any sensory mental, or physical disability; the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and whistleblower.

SCOPE OF THE LAW

The Washington Law Against Discrimination is a broad and powerful remedial statue that was originally enacted in 1949 as an employment discrimination law. See Fraternal Order of Eagles v. Grand Aerie of Fraternal Order, 148 Wn.2d 224, 237, 59 P.3d 655 (Wash. 2002) (internal citations omitted); Laws of 1949, ch. 183. Remarkably, Washington State enacted WLAD 15 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

WLAD is potent. It contains a sweeping policy statement both denouncing discrimination in a variety of forms and mandating that the law be liberally construed for the accomplishment of the purposes thereof. Allison v. Housing Authority of City of Seattle, 118 Wn.2d 79, 85-86, 821 P.2d 34 (1991); RCW 49.60.020.

Enforcement of WLAD is substantially dependent on employees’ willingness to fight for their rights and either file charges or testify in discrimination cases. See id. at 86. Thus, Plaintiffs that litigate discrimination claims take on the “role of a private attorney general vindicating a policy of the highest priority.” Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

UNFAIR PRACTICES OF EMPLOYERS

Washington Law Against Discrimination makes it unlawful for employers to engage in certain practices. The following are declared to be unfair practices by employers:

(1) To refuse to hire any person because of membership in a protected class, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification: PROVIDED, That the prohibition against discrimination because of such disability shall not apply if the particular disability prevents the proper performance of the particular worker involved: PROVIDED, That this section shall not be construed to require an employer to establish employment goals or quotas based on sexual orientation.

(2) To discharge or bar any person from employment because membership in a protected class.

(3) To discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms or conditions of employment because of membership in a protected class: PROVIDED, That it shall not be an unfair practice for an employer to segregate washrooms or locker facilities on the basis of sex, or to base other terms and conditions of employment on the sex of employees where the commission by regulation or ruling in a particular instance has found the employment practice to be appropriate for the practical realization of equality of opportunity between the sexes.

(4) To print, or circulate, or cause to be printed or circulated any statement, advertisement, or publication, or to use any form of application for employment, or to make any inquiry in connection with prospective employment, which expresses any limitation, specification, or discrimination as to membership in a protected class, or any intent to make any such limitation, specification, or discrimination, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification: PROVIDED, Nothing contained herein shall prohibit advertising in a foreign language.

See RCW 49.60.180.

RETALIATION

Washington Law Against Discrimination also protects individuals against employer retaliation for engaging in protected activity under certain circumstances. The relevant law is RCW 49.60.210 and it states as follows:

(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 … [the Washington Law Against Discrimination], 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 employer, employment agency, labor 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.

THE WA STATE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

Washington Law Against Discrimination “created a state agency, later designated in 1971 as the Washington State Human Rights Commission, and granted it jurisdiction and powers to carry out the provision of WLAD and the policies and practices of the commission connected therewith.” Fraternal Order of Eagles, Tenino Aerie No. 564 v. Grand Aerie of Fraternal Order of Eagles, 148 Wn.2d 224, 237, 59 P.3d 655 (2002) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added). The Commission is authorized to receive, impartially investigate, and pass upon complaints alleging unfair practices defined by WLAD. Id.

Essentially, the Commission has power with respect to elimination and prevention of discrimination in employment, in credit and insurance transactions, in places of public resort, accommodation, or amusement, and in real property transactions because of race, creed, color, national origin, families with children, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability.

CIVIL LAWSUITS

However, notwithstanding the existence of the Washington State Human Rights Commission, employees and former employees are not required to exhaust administrative remedies through the Commission before pursuing civil remedies through the court system based on violations of the Washington Law Against Discrimination. However, this does not hold true for certain federal antidiscrimination laws subject to jurisdiction of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. See EEOC website. This article addresses solely Washington State law (WLAD) and does not discuss federal discrimination law.

If the employee (or former employee) wants to bypass the Washington State Human Rights Commission, or the Commission dismisses the charge of discrimination, or the Commission elects not to file the charge, then the employee might be able to file a civil lawsuit based on violations of WLAD in a court of competent jurisdiction.

REMEDIES

Remedies for violations of the Washington Law Against Discrimination are broad. Any person deeming himself or herself injured by any act in violation of WLAD can bring a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction to enjoin further violations, or to recover the actual damages sustained by the person, or both, together with the cost of suit including reasonable attorneys’ fees or any other appropriate remedy authorized by WLAD or the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, or the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 3601 et seq.). See RCW 49.60.030(2).
Learn More

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced employment discrimination attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible. This article is not offered as legal advice and will not establish an attorney-client relationship with Williams Law Group, Law Office of Gregory A. Williams, P.S., Inc., or the author of this article. Please read our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy notice.

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