Lewis County has agreed to pay out $210,000 to former 911 dispatcher Jerrie O’Connor, who alleged that county officials gave her schedule to her domestic abuser, allowed her abuser’s friends into the facility and retaliated against her for seeking accommodations under the Domestic Violence Leave Act.
The settlement was announced by O’Connor’s attorney this week, four years after O’Connor brought her suit in Thurston County Superior Court.
“The settlement is a victory for survivors of domestic violence,” O’Connor said in a prepared statement. “It means that employers cannot get away with these kinds of demands for verification and retaliatory acts even when the abuser is a law enforcement officer.”
In 2017, an investigation by the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) backed up many of O’Connor’s claims, and the agency slapped Lewis County with a $2,500 fine for violating the Domestic Violence Leave Act, which guarantees victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking leave for medical or legal reasons or to relocate.
In their report, L&I found that the county acted in a “reckless and negligent fashion,” according to previous reporting by The Chronicle. L&I also found that “Lewis County was not acting in good faith” when it released hundreds of pages of information to O’Connor’s alleged abuser, who had made verbal public records requests to the county
L&I’s report also said the county had denied O’Connor leave guaranteed under state law, retaliated against her for requesting time off and requested verification of her situation not required under state law.
“Ms. O’Connor provided her supervisors at Lewis County all five of the forms of proof of domestic violence provided under (state law), yet the county demanded even more invasive forms of proof” reads the press release from O’Connor’s attorney, Lauren Berkowitz.
“We are pleased to see Lewis County take accountability for its actions,” Berkowitz said in a prepared statement. “This was an egregious case of express violations of the law, which Ms. O’Connor pointed out to the county in writing and in real time. We hope the county and other employers faced with employees seeking domestic violence leave in complex legal circumstances will recognize that no employer is above the law.”