When a person gets his or her first job it can be an exciting time. A paycheck, a uniform, new duties and responsibilities can be rewarding and fulfilling. However, after the honeymoon period ends, and coworkers and supervisors get more comfortable working together, a terrible pattern can emerge. Many workers can become exploited when asked for sexual favors by a supervisor, and can become trapped when they don’t know their rights when it comes to sexual harassment.
In Washington,RCW 49.60 governs sexual harassment in employment. The law, referred to as the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (or “WLAD”), prohibits employers from discharging or discriminating against employees based on protected characteristics. Washington State law is somewhat broad as to what characteristics are protected, and includes age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, national origin, honorably discharged veteran or military status. It is also unlawful to discriminate against any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or a person for the use of a trained guide dog or service animal.
Despite the fact that the WLAD prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, cases often arise, and are highlighted in the local and national news. Earlier this month, one such case received widespread attention due to the gravity of the harassing behavior and the outcome of the jury verdict. According to the Seattle Times, two women were awarded $565,000 by a Kitsap County jury at the beginning of August. The case stemmed from the two women’s employment at Bremerton Lanes and Casino, which is no longer in operation. The women worked at Bremerton Lanes and Casino at different times, around 2007 and 2010, but did not know each other until two other employees began collecting witness statements in 2010.
The women, who are now 24 and 26-years-old, worked at the lanes under the supervision of Roy Pierce, who is now 50-years-old. Mr. Pierce is found to have told the women that if they did not pose for him in nude photographs, he would fire them. Mr. Pierce took the photos of the women in his office, and distributed them among other staff. The women, who feared going out onto the job market without having college degrees, both felt that they had to comply with Mr. Pierce’s demands in order to keep their jobs.
This month, Mr. Pierce was held to have violated Washington State laws by creating a hostile work environment and engaging in “quid pro quo” sexual harassment. Bremerton Lanes and Casino, and their owner Fred Evans, were also named in the suit and held liable for the “quid pro quo” harassment.
In addition to his liability in this recent civil suit, Mr. Pierce has a criminal rap sheet. He is currently serving a 14-year sentence at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, and was brought to Kitsap County Superior Court from that prison. Mr. Pierce’s criminal charges, which are not related to the sexual harassment suit, range from child molestation and voyeurism, to possession of child pornography.
For now, Mr. Pierce’s victims from his reign at Bremerton Lanes and Casino have a piece of justice, and can at least feel at ease knowing that they have helped to prevent this type of conduct from happening again.
If you are or have been a victim of sexual harassment, you should seek out the assistance of an experienced employment discrimination law attorney. Call HKM Employment Attorneys today for a confidential consultation.