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GH Community Hospital wins hostile workplace lawsuit

MONTESANO — Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge Gordon Godfrey has dismissed a hostile workplace lawsuit by a former Grays Harbor Community Hospital worker, who had alleged discrimination at the Aberdeen-based hospital based on his age and sex and says he was forced to leave his job after a fight with a supervisor.

The lawsuit was filed by Roger A. Lane, who was employed as a diabetes nurse educator at the hospital until he resigned on March 10, 2010, and moved to New Mexico with his wife. He filed the lawsuit in March of last year and the hospital won the case on summary judgment in December.

Now, Lane may be on the hook for as much as $8,000 in attorney costs for bringing the lawsuit forward.

The lawsuit says that Lane’s supervisor spent more than a year “engaged in a pattern of conduct directed at plaintiff that was physically threatening, humiliating, hostile and unwelcomed.”

The lawsuit cites one instance in February of 2009, where the supervisor “yelled at plaintiff loudly, while red faced and veins protruding from her neck.” The “outburst was so loud that other employees went to plaintiff’s office to check on his personal safety. … Patients from a waiting room 50 feet away asked if everyone was OK” and Lane “was forced to meet with those patients immediately following (the) tirade, causing him great personal embarrassment.”

The lawsuit alleged that the hospital was “directly liable for its negligence in supervising Peterson and in its failure to remedy the hostile work environment.”

He asked for damages to be proven at trial.

Court records show that attorneys for the hospital, represented by Seattle-based law firm Soha & Lang, tried to work out an arrangement out of court, but when nothing could be settled, they filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit completely.

Attorneys argued that, in this case, Lane had two years to bring forward a legal complaint, not the standard three.

The lawsuit notes that the age-discrimination claims are nonsense since Lane is seven years younger than his former supervisor and the sex discrimination makes little sense since Lane worked in an office with many women and never complained about discrimination.

“It is undisputed that Lane experienced no adverse employment action as a result of his February 2009 argument,” the attorneys for the hospital state, adding that he was never terminated nor demoted and, in fact, “continued to receive positive reviews” from his supervisor.

“In addition, the February 2009 argument did not relate in anyway to Lane’s age or sex,” the attorneys state. “To the contrary, the argument was, instead, about the unfortunate impact of budget constraints.”

The attorneys note that all of the employees did go into mediation before Lane resigned. And the hospital never received a grievance from Lane’s union about the situation.

“No reasonable person could conclude that (the supervisor’s) alleged yelling at Lane about ‘office travel’ was ‘atrocious’ or ‘utterly intolerable’ for a civilized society,” the hospital attorneys state, citing the requirements needed for a successful claim.

In the end, Judge Godfrey agreed that the lawsuit should be dismissed and attorney fees for the hospital awarded, citing law that states: “Plantiff’s action was frivolous, unreasonable or without foundation, even though not brought in subjective bad faith.”

The lawsuit was dismissed on Dec. 23 and on Dec. 31, the hospital came back and requested attorney fees of $8,000.