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County Council approves changes to protect employees from retaliation

Post by Steve Maynard / The News Tribune on Oct. 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm with No Comments »
October 17, 2012 6:52 am

The Pierce County Council unanimously approved policy additions today protecting employees against retaliation by elected and appointed officials.

The changes in the county code are a condition of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice into alleged civil rights violations at the office of Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam. That settlement released in June required the county to revise its anti-discrimination policies and submit them to federal officials for approval.

The changes will apply to the county’s 3,000 employees, including those in the assessor-treasurer’s office.

The added language states: “No individual shall be subjected to retaliation because they have exercised a right protected under the law such as complaining about discrimination or harassment or assisting with or participating in the resolution or investigation of such a complaint in the workplace.”

The revision also says any form of retaliation against someone who takes part in a complaint or investigation will not be tolerated and is subject to disciplinary action, including termination.

The changes to the county’s Equal Employment Opportunity Policy specify the policy applies to elected and appointed officials as part of all levels and departments of county government.

The changes, already approved by the Department of Justice, become law 10 days after County Executive Pat McCarthy signs the ordinance approved Tuesday. Without commenting on them, the council voted 7-0 to adopt the changes.

Federal investigators said Washam discriminated against his employees by retaliating against them after they complained about his behavior. A lawsuit filed in June in U.S. District Court concluded a yearlong investigation by the Department of Justice and included a settlement the county agreed to after months negotiations.

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