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King County in Washington State to Pay $900K in Retaliation Claim

A U.S. District Court in Seattle has ordered King County to pay $900,252 to a Black senior Metro transit worker who said he was retaliated against after alleging racial discrimination in the agency’s hiring and promotional processes.

According to his lawsuit, seventy-one year-old Claude Brown, hired in 1997 by King County, became a transit operator in 2000 and transferred to light rail as an operator in 2009. The lawsuit, filed in 2016, alleged that Brown was passed over for promotion and removed from a technical training position — which was then given to a younger white man — just eight days after the job had been assigned to him. Brown also claimed that despite his test scores, his supervisors repeatedly rejected his application to be a Rail Supervisor in Training. The lawsuit also alleged that Brown complained about what he believed to be discriminatory employment practices at Metro and said his supervisors singled him out for discipline or rejected his applications for advancement, citing his race as a factor. The suit indicated that Brown said union officials told him that the county would never hire a supervisor with “braids.”

The jury dismissed the discrimination claims, but sided with Brown in connection with the allegations that Metro officials retaliated against him for filing complaints. The jury awarded Brown $228,952 in economic damages and $671,300 for emotional harm. The public information officer for King County Metro, said the agency “is committed to equity and offers strong protections against discrimination and retaliation.” He also indicated that Metro is reviewing the case and considering whether to appeal.