A woman claims in a civil rights lawsuit that she lost her job at a Spokane coffee company because she served as a juror in the Tom DiBartolo murder trial.
Lisa Barron wants her job back and unspecified damages for lost wages, emotional distress and legal fees in the suit filed Friday in Superior Court.
It names her former employer, Craven’s Inc., and its owners, Simon Thompson and Becky Templin, as defendants.
Barron, who remains unemployed, declined comment. Her attorney, Bill Powell, said state law makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate in any fashion against an employee who serves on a jury.
People who suffer workplace retaliation after serving on juries can seek either criminal or civil action, although that is rare.
“She felt she had a good relationship with the owners until she got the jury summons,” Powell said, “and then things went downhill.”
The coffee company owners deferred comment to their attorney, Jed Morris. He said allegations in the suit are absolutely untrue.
“They adamantly deny all allegations that they wrongfully terminated her,” Morris said.
Barron, 29, worked as a packager at Craven’s for 2-1/2 years before being called for jury duty last fall.
On Oct. 29, she was picked to serve on the jury that six weeks later convicted DiBartolo, a former sheriff’s deputy, of murdering his wife.
When Barron told her employers she was on the jury, they expressed “extreme displeasure” and “berated her” for failing to get herself disqualified from jury duty, the suit says.
“They also told (her) she knew she had a choice and that her job could change when she came back” to work, the suit alleges.
When she returned on Dec. 17, some of her job duties were assigned to someone else and she was “falsely accused of certain conduct,” according to the suit.
Barron was issued an ultimatum to change her behavior or quit, her suit says. She quit on Dec. 22.
She initially went to Superior Court Judge Neal Reilly and complained of being pressured not to be a juror. Reilly called the prosecutor’s office, which provided Barron with a list of private attorneys to consult.
Prosecutor Jim Sweetser and chief civil deputy Jim Emacio said Barron did not raise the issue of criminal charges, nor did she report her job-loss allegations to the police department.
Workplace retaliation against a juror is a misdemeanor offense in Washington.
“Certainly, if there is a factual basis to pursue here, it will be something that we’ll look at,” Sweetser said. “These kinds of things can have an impact on the entire criminal justice system.”
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