Washington’s Snohomish County has reached a settlement with and will pay $600,000 to Debbie McPherson, a former county HR manager who had sued the county in April for sexual harassment, discrimination, and a hostile work environment.
McPherson was fired in December 2008 after repeatedly complaining about the harassment that she and other female employees claim they were being subjected to.
According to an April 2010 article in the Seattle Times:
Deborah McPherson, 59, said several top county officials including Deputy Executive Mark Soine, who resigned Monday, knew or should have known about misconduct by male managers in the Planning Department and failed to take action.
The lawsuit also names the county official who investigated workplace complaints of harassment and discrimination, Mark Knudsen. Knudsen resigned in February days before an investigation concluded that he had prepared written reports in only about one-fourth of complaints over the past decade and in some cases completely lost records of employee complaints. Knudsen reported to Soine.
The lawsuit is the latest in the fallout over complaints about the treatment of female staff members under former Planning Director Craig Ladiser. Ladiser resigned in August after an investigation concluded that he had exposed himself to a woman during a building-industry golf tournament. He faces assault charges in King County over the incident.
McPherson said Tuesday she took legal action against the county only as a last resort. She said she complained to Ladiser, Knudsen and Human Resources Director Bridget Clawson, about a sexist office environment and retaliation against her for protesting women’s treatment, but that nothing was done.
The lawsuit describes the Planning Department under Ladiser and his deputy Greg Morgan as a “Harley Club” where male managers routinely left work early, drank excessively, rode motorcycles together and gave each other preferential treatment in hiring and promotions.
The complaint says that Morgan, who served as deputy director from 2006 to May 2009, boasted about his use of a sexual-performance drug, touched women inappropriately and forwarded e-mails with pictures of naked women from his work computer.