The Washington State Department of Corrections has responded to a complaint filed by a worker at Larch Corrections Center, denying allegations leveled at the department regarding discrimination and harassment the plaintiff faced while working at the minimum security prison.
The response follows an Oct. 23 complaint filed in Clark County Superior Court by Sidney Clark, an employee of Larch for more than 20 years according to the suit.
Clark, an African-American, alleged he received “disparate treatment and a hostile work environment because of his race.” It goes on further to allege that Clark was subject to retaliation due to his involvement with proceedings seeking to investigate his claims.
Clark’s claims included a breach of an agreement where he dropped an unfair labor practices grievance in exchange for removal of disciplinary letters, retaliation over reporting of sexual misconduct allegations, being stripped of job responsibilities and being denied of promotions while his white peers were treated more favorably.
The Department of Corrections response denies much of what Clark detailed in his complaint, specifically allegations that it engaged “in misconduct, discrimination, or retaliation” against Clark.
The DOC response did affirm some of Clark’s complaint, mostly on aspects such as his re-assignment of work (which Clark characterized as being stripped of his duties) and regarding several investigations that the plaintiff was subject to. It affirmed the department’s conduct toward the plaintiff was legitimate, not based on discrimination or retaliation.
The DOC denied that Clark was entitled to any judgment or relief sought by his complaint and sought to dismiss the case “with prejudice” preventing any further legal action regarding the allegations.
Charges dropped against man accused of threatening plaintiff
One of Clark’s claims in the complaint alleged some Larch staff members recruited a former inmate in order to intimidate Clark.
According to the complaint, in December 2016 a white male rushed Clark at a Fred Meyer store in Vancouver, accusing him to making trouble for Larch employees and using a racial slur to threaten Clark’s life if he ever returned to Larch.
The lawsuit alleges that Larch administration interfered with the Vancouver Police Department’s investigation into the assault. Further details alleged that the male who threatened Clark, later identified as a former Larch inmate, was a regular at a fitness gym where some Larch managers worked out.
The case against the former inmate regarding the alleged incident was dismissed Dec. 11, following a motion by the State based on “insufficient evidence to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.” The court ended up granting the dismissal with prejudice, preventing future challenges to the alleged incident.
A “Conclusions of Law” filing said the dismissal was appropriate “given the age of the case, the lack of evidence and everything the Defense has lost with the Prosecution’s decision not to place its primary law enforcement witness under oath or to proceed to trial in the matter.”