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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The Tort of Wrongful Discharge: 2 Approaches

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | In the State of Washington, what approaches may a plaintiff utilize to prove the tort of wrongful discharge? Here’s my point of view (NOTE: please review our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy Policy before proceeding).

Washington State recognizes the tort of wrongful discharge as an exception to the general principle that absent a definite contract, employees are terminable at-will; a “tort” is a wrongful act or an infringement of a right (other than under contract) leading to civil legal liability. In Washington, there are two approaches to establishing the Tort of Wrongful Discharge.

First, under the tort’s common analytical framework, there are four scenarios that will potentially expose the employer to liability: (1) when employees are fired for refusing to commit an illegal act, (2) when employees are fired for performing a public duty or obligation, such as serving jury duty, (3) when employees are fired for exercising a legal right or privilege, such as filing workers’ compensation claims, and (4) when employees are fired in retaliation for reporting employer misconduct, i.e., whistle-blowing. Rose v. Anderson Hay & Grain Co., 184 Wn.2d 268, 286-87, 358 P.3d 1139 (Wash. 2015). Under each scenario, the plaintiff is required to identify the recognized public policy and demonstrate that the employer contravened that policy by terminating the employee. Id. at 276. If the plaintiff meets its burden, then the burden shifts to the employer to establish that the plaintiff’s dismissal was for other reasons. See id. at 287.

Second, in other instances, when the facts do not fit neatly into one of the four above-described categories, a more refined analysis may be necessary. Rose v. Anderson Hay & Grain Co., 184 Wn.2d 268, 287, 358 P.3d 1139 (Wash. 2015). In those circumstances, the courts should look to the four-part Perritt framework for guidance. Id. Under this Perritt framework, courts examine (1) the existence of a “clear public policy” (clarity element), (2) whether ” discouraging the conduct in which [the employee] engaged would jeopardize the public policy” (jeopardy element), (3) whether the ” public-policy-linked conduct caused the dismissal” (causation element), and (4) whether the employer is ” able to offer an overriding justification for the dismissal” (absence of justification element). Id. at 277. (internal citations omitted).

Learn More

If you believe that you’ve been a victim of employment discrimination that caused you to resign, then consider contacting an experienced employment discrimination attorney as soon as possible to discuss your rights. If you wait too long to act, you may lose some or all of your rights in relation to your particular matter.

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: Unlawful Retaliation

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under Washington’s Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), RCW Chapter 49.60, it is illegal for an 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.

UNLAWFUL RETALIATION

WLAD provides additional protections for employees against retaliation. Specifically, it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against a person for opposing what the person reasonably believed to be discrimination on the basis of a protected class and/or providing information to or participating in a proceeding to determine whether discrimination or retaliation occurred.

Take our Unlawful Retaliation Test below:

Learn More

If you believe that you’ve been a victim of unlawful retaliation 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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