Reporting Discrimination Not Protected

Retaliation at hospital after discrimination whistleblowing Hollenback v. Shriners Hospitals for Children, — P.3d —-, 2009 WL 1152042 (Wash.App. Div. 3 Mar 17, 2009) (NO. 26626-5-III) In 1996, Cheryl Hollenback was hired as an at-will employee by Shriners Hospitals for Children in Spokane, Washington. At the time she was terminated in 2006, Ms. Hollenback held the position of Director of Patient Care Services, one of three top management positions at Shriners. Ms. Hollenback reported discrimination, harassment, and fear of retaliation to Shriners resulting from problems caused by Chief of Staff Dr. Ronny Ferguson’s romantic relationship with one of Ms. Hollenback’s subordinates. Ultimately, Dr. Ferguson resigned, and Shriners terminated Ms. Hollenback. Ms. Hollenback filed an action alleging retaliation, failure to provide specific treatment in specific situations, breach of contract, and wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Shriners and dismissed all of Ms. Hollenback’s claims. Ms. Hollenback appeals. The appellate court reversed only the dismissal of the retaliation claim. RCW 49.60.210 prohibits employers from terminating employees for opposing acts violating the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). Ms. Hollenback needed to establish that: (1) she participated in a statutorily protected activity; (2) an adverse employment action was taken against her; and (3) her activity and the employer’s adverse action were causally connected. The conduct complained of need not actually be unlawful; the employee must establish only that he or she reasonably believed that the employer’s conduct was discriminatory. If the plaintiff proves a prima facie case, the evidentiary burden shifts to the employer to produce admissible evidence of a legitimate, nonretaliatory reason...

Voluntary Reduction in Force

Loophole Created in Unemployment Law for Big Business to Save State Money Verizon Nw., Inc. v. Employment Sec. Dep’t, 164 Wn.2d 909, 194 P.3d 255, 2008 Wash. LEXIS 1040, 28 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 516, Unemployment Ins. Rep. (CCH) P9044 (Wash. 2008), (Wash. Oct 23, 2008) (NO. 81024-9) If a small business downsizes and lays-off employees, it generally has no choice but to terminate specified employees. Big business can tell employees that they are within the class of employees being considered for lay-off and ask for voluntary participation in a force reduction program. The employment security commissioner has provide rules governing whether these “voluntary” participants qualify for unemployment benefits or have been separated for a disqualifying reason: You will not be considered to have been separated from employment for a disqualifying reason when: (a) Your employer takes the first action in the separation process by announcing in writing to its employees that: (i) The employer plans to reduce its work force through a layoff or reduction in force, and (ii) That employees can offer to be among those included in the layoff or reduction in force; (b) You offer to be one of the employees included in the layoff or reduction in force; and (c) Your employer takes the final action in the separation process by accepting your offer to be one of the employees included in the layoff or reduction in force, thereby ending your employment relationship. WAC 192-150-100(1). In this case, Verizon argued that it did not take the final step because it gave the employees the right to rescind their acceptance of the force reduction program. No...