A former City of Chewelah employee has submitted a claim for $1.5 million alleging that the city retaliated against her for filing a “gender based hostile work environment” complaint. According to a Notice of Claim dated February 26, 2013 she was first removed from her position as the Public Works Director and her employment was ultimately terminated in January of 2013.
The claim, submitted on behalf of Denise Smith by Spokane attorney Paul J. Burns, alleges that she was employed by the city from November 1982 through her termination in January of 2013. During this period of employment, Ms. Smith alleges that “she performed her job responsibilities competently and well and met the legitimate expectations of her employer.”
In July 2007, Ms. Smith was promoted to the position of Public Works Director and claims that her “performance in this position was exemplary, as evidenced by absence of any discipline and the presence of consistent positive performance evaluations.”
While acting in her role as director of public works, Ms. Smith supervised a crew of all male City of Chewelah employees and claims that she was subjected to a continuous “gender based hostile work environment” until she filed a formal complaint with the city on September 9, 2011.
The $1.5 million claim states that: “The City of Chewelah is subject to liability to the plaintiff for gender based discrimination under RCW 49.60.180 (and) . . . gender based retaliation and wrongful termination in violation of RCW 49.60.210.”
According to City Administrator Mike Frizzell, Chewelah and their insurer are being represented by attorney Beth Kennar of the Summit Law Group. Frizzell indicated that the city has 60 days from the date of the notice to respond to Smith’s claim.
Beth Kennar’s practice involves a full range of employment law matters and she represents employers in litigation and administrative proceedings from offices in Seattle and Spokane.