Washington State University officials will pay a Pullman campus director $150,000 in exchange for dropping a racial discrimination suit against the school.
WSU lawyers announced this week they’d settle the 2-year-old lawsuit brought by Dallas Barnes that had been scheduled to go to trial this fall in U.S. District Court.
“This solves the problem and tries to put the issues behind us,” said Assistant Attorney General Loretta Lamb.
Lamb handles many of the discrimination suits filed against the University of Washington and WSU.
“I can’t think of any previous settlement from either school being larger than this one,” she said Friday.
The agreement - which goes into effect after it’s signed by District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle - does the following:
Pays the 56-year-old Barnes $150,000 in one lump sum.
Gives him a new job as assistant director of student services at WSU Tri-Cities’ branch campus.
Ends the lawsuit, without acknowledging the university did anything wrong.
Barnes has been director of the WSU academic development program, a part of student services at the Pullman campus.
He’s worked at the school since 1969. In 1993, the university tried to eliminate his job during state-wide budget cutbacks.
His job was reinstated when the school found several “procedural irregularities” had occurred prior to the job being eliminated.
He filed a discrimination suit against the university in 1994 - the first filed against WSU on the basis of racial discrimination.
He contended that WSU had eliminated his office resources and staff out of racial and age discrimination.
He’s kept at work since then, but “without the productivity” the university expects from him, said Lamb.
She also said the university was prepared to battle Barnes in court, but saw a no-win situation.
“Even if we won, he’d still be down there in Pullman, and it would not be possible to remove him,” said Lamb.
“He’d probably be even less happy than he has been,” she said.
Barnes acknowledged the lawsuit has coincided with a period of work stress.
“When you think about what I’ve got - a director’s title without the control (or authority) of a director - then yes, it hasn’t been easy for me,” Barnes said.
Barnes makes about $56,000 per year. The new job will pay him the same, Lamb said.
In 1988, WSU had to pay about $500,000 in legal fees and damages to several female athletes who sued the school for its failure to fund their athletic programs equally with men’s programs.
Lamb said there “was no magical reason for choosing $150,000. It was considered to be a fair number.”
WSU has four other discrimination suits pending. Two are over sexual discrimination, two are from age discrimination.
She said discrimination suits filed by current employees - who cannot be fired pending the outcome of a lawsuit - create new legal challenges for state agencies.
“This is a relatively new problem. A lot of these legal issues simply haven’t been resolved yet,” Lamb said.
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