Cowlitz County, female employee reach settlement in discrimination suit

2013-12-06T21:15:00Z 2013-12-06T21:46:39Z Cowlitz County, female employee reach settlement in discrimination suit Longview Daily News

A Cowlitz County road crew worker will receive $185,000 after settling a gender discrimination suit this month, her attorney said Friday.

Barbara A. Wilson sued the county in July of last year, saying the public works department passed her over for promotion at least four times because she is a woman.

Wilson, who joined the department as an accountant clerk in 1985, sued in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. She claimed that other men who were far less experienced and had less seniority were promoted to road crew foreman. Wilson said in her suit that there are three women and 55 men in the road department and that there has never been a female road crew foreman.

“The folks in that decision-making role were biased against her,” said Wilson’s attorney, Thane Tienson of Portland.

In the lawsuit, Wilson also said she had filled in as a road crew foreman and that no one had complained about her performance as a leader. Yet, county officials gave Wilson conflicting reasons why they hadn’t picked her to lead road crews, according to the suit.

It’s possible, Tienson said, that county officials may not have realized their bias against hiring a woman to lead a road crew, but that’s no excuse in this era.

“Those days are long gone,” he said. “We now realize that women can and do — and Barbara certainly did — an excellent job being a foreman. She served in that capacity many, many times.”

The lawsuit was taken up by a neutral mediator in mid-November and was settled early this month, according to court documents.

Tienson said his client, who is still employed as a road crewmember, was awarded a one-time payment of $185,000 in the settlement. The county did not admit fault.

In settlements such as these, Cowlitz County pays only its insurance deductible and its insurance pool and reinsurance coverage picks up the rest of the cost.

Dale Kamerrer, a Tumwater attorney who represented the county in the suit, said Wilson has not been promoted, but added, “I don’t know what the future is going to bring.”

Tienson, however, said it’s unlikely that Wilson, who is about seven years away from retirement, ever will be promoted. The current road foremen are relatively young, and the county is more likely to reduce the number of supervisors in the department to cut costs, he said.

Tony Lystra covers Kelso city government, Cowlitz County government and environmental issues for The Daily News. Reach him at 360-575-6210 or tlystra@tdn.com

Copyright 2015 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. chiffonette87
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    chiffonette87 - December 07, 2013 8:34 am
    Her lawyer sues the court for gender discrimination and then is quoted saying that the county will likely hire someone younger or cut costs? Can't discriminate by age either, dude!
  2. Transplant
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    Transplant - December 07, 2013 10:56 am
    It doesn't say that they'll hire someone younger. It says that the CURRENT foremen are fairly young (and as a result are not likely to retire soon, thereby opening up the availibolity of a promotion).
  3. Hawaiin_surf
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    Hawaiin_surf - December 07, 2013 11:32 am
    I know...lol. What a joke.
  4. Hawaiin_surf
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    Hawaiin_surf - December 07, 2013 11:32 am
    Who would want to be a foreman anyways or a boss.
  5. Taffeta
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    Taffeta - December 07, 2013 4:19 pm
    Too bad the county feels they need to take out insurance on discrimination. One would think the "good ol boys" attitude would have sunk in with all the hours of training they get on this subject while on the county payroll.
  6. boomer47
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    boomer47 - December 07, 2013 8:25 pm
    Good for you girl, it's law suits like this that open the ole eye balls!!
    The county should know better!
  7. snowdays99
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    snowdays99 - December 10, 2013 7:05 am
    The county and insurance pool may have had to pay out a combined 185K but how much did Mrs. Wilson's lawsuit really cost the county? Lawyer fees had to be in the area of $100,000. Witness', court costs, and the mediator likely didn't come cheap either. That information should be made public record as well. The county and the men who make up the majority might want to change their behavior, otherwise lawsuits like this may become more common.
  8. fishandshoot2
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    fishandshoot2 - December 12, 2013 10:08 am
    accounting clerk to boss of road crew . does she have experience in road maintenance or being in charge of 40 people ?
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