LITTLEROCK, Wash.—A federal age, gender and racial discrimination lawsuit has been filed by 11 workers against the Cedar Creek Corrections Center, a state prison work camp about 23 miles south of the Capitol.
In a case filed last month in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, the plaintiffs, including a disabled Black chaplain, claimed they were denied specialized training, unfairly passed over for promotions and held to higher standards than White men working at the minimum-security operation.
Some claimed that when they raised those issues with their superiors, they were met with retaliation in the form of unfavorable performance reviews or less desirable assignments. One said he was subjected to racist jokes, and the chaplain accused prison officials of asking inmates to report on his work habits.
Claims filed with the state before the lawsuit sought damages of $150,000 to $500,000 per plaintiff, said Michael Hanbey, a lawyer who filed the case.
Some plaintiffs also have filed complaints with the EqualEmployment Opportunity Commission and the state Human Rights Commission, officials said.
An independent lawyer who was hired by the state Department of Corrections to investigate the claims before the lawsuit was filed found they lacked merit, Attorney General Eric A. Mentzer said.
"DOC takes discrimination claims very seriously, as evidenced by the fact that they hired an independentinvestigator," Mentzer said.
Cedar Creek is a work camp with about 400 inmates and 120 employees in the Capital Forest in southern Thurston County.
— The Associated Press