December 21, 1996 in City

First-Aid Teacher Files Bias Lawsuit Against University Latest WSU Allegation Joins Long List Of Discrimination Complaints

By The Spokesman-Review

Cynthia Christie was “highly thought of in the profession” and “needed in the extreme,” her supervisors at Washington State University said.

There was no doubt her “contract will be extended into the future,” her bosses at the College of Education added.

Barely two years later, Christie was told her teaching skills were exemplary no longer. Two replacement instructors were hired to take over her health education and first-aid classes at more than twice the expense.

Then she was temporarily rehired to finish teaching their first-aid classes because neither had the necessary Red Cross certification.

It all adds up to another discrimination lawsuit against WSU. And Christie is one of 18 current or former WSU employees with formal discrimination complaints filed against the university with state and federal agencies or the courts. Another one, filed by Academic Development Program Director Dallas Barnes, was settled out of court recently.

Barnes received $150,000 and a new job at WSU’s Tri-Cities campus.

Christie, now substitute teaching and driving a limousine part-time, filed her claim against the university last week in Whitman County Superior Court. She alleges her position was axed because she complained about having a higher teaching load than her male counterparts while being paid less.

At one point, for example, Christie says a male instructor was paid $3,100 to teach a first-aid class and she was offered $2,000 for teaching a more rigorous course.

Christie also alleges retaliation by her department chair Larry Bruya and later by Education Dean Bernard Oliver because of her complaints. Her application to attend graduate school at WSU also mysteriously disappeared, her suit alleges.

Her civil rights, rights of free speech and due process all were violated, according to the suit. The suit does not ask for a specific sum of money.

Bruya and Oliver could not be reached for comment. Loretta Lamb, the assistant state attorney general representing WSU, said she hasn’t had time to read the suit and couldn’t comment. But WSU was anticipating the suit, Lamb said.

Christie’s attorney, Greg Arpin of Spokane, said the list of complaints filed in Colfax are only the opening salvo. “There are a lot of facts I haven’t alleged,” he said.

In addition, he will analyze WSU’s payroll for patterns of discrimination.

He also will investigate whether the university’s system for detecting and dealing with discrimination really works.

The job loss was “extremely detrimental emotionally and economically,” for Christie, Arpin said, and she had to seek counseling.

But if WSU offered Christie her job back, he’s not sure she’d take it.

“After you’ve been pushed down so many times and stepped on so many times … there’s a feeling of fear that somebody in the system is out to get you,” Arpin said.

The volume of trouble at WSU says something, Arpin contends. “If you look at what’s been going on at WSU and the claims that have been made, I think there’s a problem,” he said. “I think we have a public institution with some serious internal problems complying with the law in terms of equal treatment.

“You can’t keep pushing that aside.”

, DataTimes

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