Lawsuit Alleges Wrongful Termination of South Seattle Employee

On August 8, 2012, court summons served to three staff members at South Seattle Community College alleges unlawful termination, emotional distress and religious discrimination. The plaintiff, a former student and parking attendant employee of the college, is seeking punitive damages in the sum of $32,000.

According to court documents, the school claims the allegations by the plaintiff “are completely false and without merit.” The school district Board of Trustees met September 13th and approved funding for the accused staff defense.

The plaintiff was fired January 31st 2011 following, “several warnings and corrective actions/consultations about inappropriate behavior,” says a document from the school. The plaintiff, however, puts his termination date on the 16 or 17th (documents claim separate dates), and claims termination due to, “religious discrimination,” and “her (defendant) efforts to get me to stop talking about my beliefs at college.” He also alleges he was, “unlawfully deprived…of employment to protect (the defendant) from repercussions that would have been imposed against her,” by the district. The plaintiff identifies as a Jehovah’s Witness.

The school contends that the plaintiff has a long history of inappropriate behavior including an incident in which he told a “female Muslim student that her popcorn had pork in it,” among other complaints filed by students that allege religious insensitivity and harassment.

The plaintiff states that one of the defendants reported that he, “sexually assaulted a student,” however the district disputes this and says the plaintiff, “was never accused of “molesting a Muslim student.”

One of the incidents cited by the plaintiff supporting his allegations of the religious discrimination is when a SSCC defendant attended the White Center Kingdom of Jehovah’s Witness where the plaintiff is a member. The plaintiff asserts that he had never seen her (the defendant) there before and that the defendant talked with the Elders of the group about him, leaving her SSCC business card with the elders. The defendant claims to be a, “semi-regular attendee” of the religious institution.

The following service the Elders called the plaintiff into a conference room and stated they received news he had touched girls in a “perverted” way at SSCC. He was told if he did not apologize he would be shunned from the group, according to the complaint document from the plaintiff. He refused to “apologize for something I had not done,” and attempted to file a complaint with another defendant in Human Resources at SSCC, and was told, “She was too busy…and would have to wait until the next academic year,” the complaint document adds.

The defendant acknowledges that she visited the White Center Kingdom and talked with Elders. She states she, “expressed her concerns and observations about (the plaintiff), in particular his representation of being a Jehovah’s Witness, and engaging in behavior incongruent with being a Witness.” She previously stated in the response document, “I attend the Kingdom Hall but am not a Jehovah Witness.”

She goes on to state, “At no time, did (I) violate the confidentiality of my position as designated grievance officer and share details of students’ information. I only shared my uncomfortableness at interacting with (the plaintiff) in the Kingdom Hall because of my interactions with him at school.”

The sequence of events leading to the court filings transpired over the course of many years. The plaintiff was hired in November of 2007 working as parking enforcer. The plaintiff also contends that he has learning disabilities and would be teased by his immediate supervisor. The school counters, “(The plaintiff) has never identified himself as an employee with a disability nor asked for any accommodations.”

The complaint by the plaintiff have been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission but no action has been taken as of yet. South Seattle reps provided the complaint and response documents, but refused further comment, “…pending litigation.” Trial is set for December 23rd.

(All information has been acquired via public records, names removed per Society of Professional Journalist ethical code.)

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