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News / Clark County News

Judge denies Clark County’s request for new trial in hostile workplace lawsuit

3 Public Works employees were awarded $600,000

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: September 12, 2023, 5:56am

A federal judge on Friday denied Clark County’s request for a new trial in a hostile work environment lawsuit filed by three Public Works employees.

In June, a jury found the county had created a hostile and biased workplace under Washington’s anti-discrimination laws and ordered the county to pay $600,000 to Elias Peña, Isaiah Hutson, and Ray Alanis. Each was awarded $200,000. The jury did not find that the county violated federal civil rights laws.

In the lawsuit, 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.

According to court documents, the county claimed the plaintiffs’ attorney improperly solicited testimony and violated court rulings during the trial, that the trial judge improperly prohibited the county from introducing evidence and allowed an improper question from the jury, among other things.

In his ruling, Judge David Estudillo said attorney misconduct can justify granting a new trial but only when “the flavor of misconduct sufficiently permeates an entire proceeding to provide conviction that the jury was influenced by passion and prejudice in reaching its verdict.”

“In considering defendant’s motion, the court cannot find that the ‘flavor of misconduct’ permeated the entire proceeding. Defendant cites several isolated examples of alleged attorney misconduct that occurred during a lengthy trial. The court doubts these incidents caused the jury to be ‘influenced by passion and prejudice’ in reaching its verdict,” Estudillo wrote in his ruling.

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