The city of Vancouver has agreed to pay a former employee $150,000 plus $50,000 in attorneys’ fees to settle a lawsuit she filed accusing her supervisor of bullying, gender discrimination and retaliation.
On Monday, the city council approved the payout to plaintiff Kimberly Armstrong to settle her February 2015 suit against the city and her boss, procurement manager Kevin Yin, who still works for the city.
“The settlement reached in this case was made purely for economic reasons,” Assistant City Attorney Daniel Lloyd stated in an email Tuesday. “The city and Mr. Yin continue to deny any allegations of harassment and retaliation.”
The city offered to settle because the “unique nature” of the case would have required extensive discovery and a jury trial that would have cost the city a significant amount in defense costs, Lloyd said. In addition, city documents state that settling the claim at an “acceptable amount” avoided the uncertainty of trial.
“The city invoked a litigation strategy which resulted in a mutually acceptable resolution of the case and enables city staff to focus their efforts on serving the public,” Lloyd said.
Armstrong worked for the city as a procurement specialist from 2002 to 2013. The lawsuit alleged that Yin “almost immediately began a pattern of hyperscrutiny and aggressive actions” toward Armstrong when he became her supervisor in 2011. Armstrong retired for medical reasons after developing sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, nausea and stress-related pains, according to court documents.
According to the city, after Yin became procurement manager, his department underwent significant internal changes to improve accountability and work practices. The changes “resulted in tension within the work group and between some employees and the procurement manager, while other procurement employees embraced the management changes,” city documents stated.
The lawsuit filing alleges that other female city employees complained to higher-ups about the difficulty of their interactions with Yin, and that two longtime employees quit their jobs after filling vacancies in the department. The court documents say that when Armstrong reported the behavior, “the city sheltered and supported Yin, ratifying his actions.”
Armstrong’s suit contended that the city, among other things, breached its duties to Armstrong by failing to maintain a safe workplace, tolerating Yin’s wrongful behavior and failing to protect her from a “hostile, intimidating and abusive environment.”
Tuesday, Lloyd said Human Resources promptly investigated Armstrong’s allegations but found nothing that would have justified discipline.
“The city continues to have a policy of zero tolerance when it comes to harassment, discrimination and retaliation,” he stated in his email.
Armstrong filed a tort claim with the city in December 2014 seeking more than $500,000, alleging discrimination and retaliation. Then she filed the suit with Clark County Superior Court requesting a jury trial, attorneys’ fees, unspecified damages and other costs.
The settlement will be paid from the city’s risk fund.