Wash. medic gets $600K in discrimination lawsuit

As part of the agreement, she will resign from the fire department as of Nov. 15; neither she or city officials have admitted wrongdoing


By Kristi Pihl
The Tri-City Herald

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Kennewick has settled two lawsuits filed by a female firefighter-paramedic who said she suffered from discrimination, retaliation and a hostile workplace for eight years.

Andra Thompson of Kennewick will be paid $349,000 including back wages and damages as part of her settlement with the city, which was unanimously approved Tuesday by the city council.

Her attorneys will be paid an additional $251,000 by the city and its insurance company to cover attorney fees and costs for the discrimination and public records lawsuits, according to city documents.

The city will pay half of the $600,000 to settle the suits, and half will be paid by the insurance company.

As part of the agreement, Thompson will resign from the city’s fire department as of Nov. 15. Neither she or city officials have admitted any wrongdoing.

Thompson sued the city and several Kennewick Fire Department supervisors, claiming she was unfairly passed over for promotion and that her complaints about working conditions were ignored.

Thompson, who was hired in 2004, alleged in court documents that she became the target of offensive acts, behavior and comments because she’s a woman. She said the behavior began about two years after she started working for Kennewick.

Thompson, who was one of two female firefighters with the department at the time, also filed a second lawsuit claiming the city withheld records she believes would show a pattern of gender discrimination within the department.

As part of mediation, the city performed a risk assessment of both lawsuits, said Lisa Beaton, Kennewick city attorney.

Not many recent appellate court decisions in public records lawsuits have been in favor of agencies and local governments, Beaton said. Considering that and the number of records in question, it seemed better to negotiate a settlement than take it to a jury.

The settlement also provides resolution now rather than waiting years for the case to go to trial, she said.

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©2014 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

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