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Former corrections officer sues employer, claims abuse

A former Washington Department of Corrections officer is suing his employer for what he says were years of racially motivated verbal and physical abuse at the Okanogan County field office.

Pierce County resident Ulises Maldonado, 35, filed a civil lawsuit late last month against the state, alleging violations of anti-discrimination laws, retaliation for whistleblowing to supervisors in Spokane about co-workers’ alleged racist behavior and work conditions that forced his resignation after nine years with the department.

Through a spokeswoman, the Department of Corrections said it does not comment on pending litigation.

Maldonado joined the department in 2004 and served as a community corrections officer for most of his time there, according to the lawsuit.

The alleged harassment began almost immediately, according to the lawsuit. He was called names ridiculing his Hispanic heritage and subjected to an “atmosphere hostile to minorities,” according to allegations, including receiving hateful emails and derogatory comments about Native American and black clients of the field office.

Maldonado also said that on separate occasions co-workers kicked him in the back, stabbed his foot with a knife and aimed a gun at him. He resigned in 2013 after being placed on administrative desk duty, which he says was a consequence of reporting the workplace environment to supervisors.

Department of Corrections employees have a mixed record suing the department for alleged discrimination. An Airway Heights guard had her case dismissed by a county judge after she alleged discrimination due to her diagnosis of dementia in 2007. Another guard won a $20,000 settlement after he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following the 2003 shooting of a fleeing inmate and was discharged for disability.