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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Justice Department settles gender discrimination suit with former Spokane prosecutor for $225,000

Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The U.S. Department of Justice agreed Wednesday to pay $225,000 to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by a former prosecutor who alleged women were not treated equally in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Spokane.

The settlement brings to an end the lawsuit filed in October 2015 by Katherine J. “Jill” Bolton, who previously worked as a prosecutor at the Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse in downtown Spokane.

“This sum is significant because the maximum damages we could have received at trial is $300,000,” said Bolton’s attorney, Mary Schultz. “We are extremely pleased with the result for obvious reasons.”

She called the settlement among the largest by the DOJ regarding a gender discrimination claim.

Mike Ormsby, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, said he could not comment on any aspect of the case. He deferred questions to an assistant U.S. attorney in Arizona who did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Bolton, who worked for Ormsby, resigned in October 2015 following an accusation donnybrook in which both Bolton and her co-workers blamed each other for a hostile work environment.

The government accused Bolton of mistreating her male counterparts and illegally sharing confidential personnel information before her suspension and resignation.

Bolton, who joined the office in 2002, argued that she was paid less than her male colleague and that her authority had been undermined by other men in the office.

She sought employment records in 2011 that would compare pay within the office. Then in 2014, the government alleged that Bolton convinced an office worker to provide a disc containing the employment records she sought. They claim she shared that privileged information with friends, family and an attorney.

After that alleged security breach, Ormsby placed Bolton on unpaid leave in November 2014 pending an investigation by the Office of Inspector General. Bolton resigned in October 2015 and is now practicing as a private attorney. She filed the gender discrimination lawsuit just a week after resigning in 2015.

Had the case gone to trial the potential witnesses included Ormsby, several assistant U.S. attorneys, at least one federal judge and several members of the FBI, according to court records.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, from Montana, was appointed to hear the case. Molloy ordered both sides to seek a settlement, which was reached Wednesday.

Bolton previously settled a lawsuit from 17 years ago alleging gender discrimination at a previous job in Blaine County, Idaho.

“This was a long road,” Schultz said, “but we believe this to be the largest settlement made by the (Justice Department) to settle a discrimination claim against that agency.”