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Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

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Judge awards $1.3M in fees to 3 Latino Clark County Public Works employees who won hostile workplace lawsuit

Fees are in addition to $600,000 jury awarded to the men

By , Columbian staff reporter

A federal judge Friday awarded three Latino Clark County Public Works employees $1.3 million in attorney fees after a jury previously found in favor of their hostile work environment claims against the county.

The fees are in addition to the $600,000 the jury awarded the men in damages.

In June, the jury found the county had created a hostile and biased workplace under Washington’s anti-discrimination laws and ordered the county pay $200,000 each to Elias Peña, Isaiah Hutson and Ray Alanis. The jury did not find the county violated federal civil rights laws.

A statement from the county Tuesday reads: “On Friday, the court issued orders awarding attorney fees and costs to plaintiffs as prevailing parties on one of six discrimination claims they filed against the county. In light of the plaintiffs’ verdict on the Washington Law Against Discrimination claim at trial, which provides for such fee-shifting, these were orders the parties had been waiting for the court to rule on since July.”

In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, the men said they were subjected to insults, threats and harassment from white co-workers and supervisors. The suit also claimed the men were subjected to more than just verbal abuse. They said they were denied pay, benefits and training opportunities given to non-Latino co-workers.

On Friday, Chief Judge David Estudillo also awarded the trio $117,000 in other expenses, such as travel, lodging and witness deposition costs.

Because of the mixed verdict in the case, the judge reduced the attorney fees by 10 percent to $982,000. But, the judge also ordered an additional $324,000 in risk fees because the men’s attorneys handled the case on a contingency basis.

“Because the outcome of this case depended on whether the jury believed plaintiffs over the numerous witnesses presented by defendant, the likelihood of success at the outset was highly uncertain,” Estudillo wrote in his order.

In September, Estudillo denied Clark County’s request for a new trial after he determined any alleged attorney misconduct did not permeate the nearly monthlong trial.