American Shipper

Port of Seattle reaches $8m settlement with fired employees

The settlement was agreed to just as a judge was preparing to issue a verdict in the case, with both sides saying that all parties have agreed not to appeal.

   The Port of Seattle has agreed to pay a total of $8 million to two former employees who said they were retaliated against for opposing lease concessions to businesses owned by friends and political supporters of a now-former port commissioner.
   The settlement was agreed to Nov. 30, just as a judge was preparing to issue a verdict in the case.
   Port employees Elaine Lincoln and Deanna Zachrisson were fired in mid-2015 after emails from four years earlier were dug up in which they insulted the owner of one of two businesses that at the time were suing the port for racial discrimination, calling the African American man a “thug” and a “criminal.”
   Other emails also referred to then-port Commissioner John Creighton a “puppet” and an “idiot.”
   But the women, who at the time oversaw the Seattle-Tacoma Airport’s dining and retail operation, claimed they were fired because they had previously disagreed with a 2012 motion by Creighton that would have given preferential leases at the airport to a handful of minority-owned businesses.
   The women were eventually cleared of bias, but were fired from the airport anyway by the port, which operates the Sea-Tac Airport. At the time of the August 2015 firings, then-port CEO Ted Fick said in a statement that the emails violated port policy and that “the disrespectful language” within conflicted with the port’s values.
   The women filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in King County Superior Court in September 2016. Near the end of a monthlong trial earlier this fall, the plaintiffs and defendant agreed to the $8 million settlement just before the judge returned a verdict.
   The settlement, according to both the port and a lawyer for the plaintiffs, caps total damages at $8 million. Both sides say that all parties have agreed not to appeal, but the port has admitted no wrongdoing.
   “We continue to believe they clearly violated port policy by disparaging tenants and colleagues over email,” port spokesman Peter McGraw said in a statement.