Court says race-based staffing decision at Western State Hospital violates law

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that a state psychiatric hospital violated the state's anti-discrimination law when it issued a weekend directive that white staffers be sent to the ward that housed a violent patient who made threats against a black employee.

In its unanimous ruling Thursday, the high court reversed a 2015 ruling by a Pierce County Superior Court that had dismissed the complaint of nine employees who had argued that Western State Hospital illegally took their race into account when making staffing decisions in response to the patient's race-based threats.

The court ordered the trial court to determine what damages and attorney fees to award to the employees.

The court dismissed the plaintiffs' arguments that they were subject to a hostile workplace, writing that a staffing decision over one weekend "did not rise to the level of severe or pervasive harassment."