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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

September 28, 2012 at 10:26 AM

Senate GOP staffer settles $1.75 million claim

The Washington State Senate has reached an agreement with Senate GOP attorney Michael Hoover resolving the $1.75 million tort claim he filed alleging a hostile work environment.

The case was settled for attorney fees and promises from the Senate to maintain a respectful workplace.

Here’s a statement by Hoover sent by email:

I am pleased to announce that the Senate and I have settled the claims I made back in April.  Under the terms of this settlement, I will not receive any money; however, some things are more important than money.  Among them, treating people with decency and respect.

And that is what this matter is about for me: treating people well, staff and members both.  The Senate can be a difficult place to work even under the best of circumstances; the pressure can be intense, and tempers can flare.  Politics are not always pretty, and there is a wide range of acceptable behavior that fits the unique legislative environment.  Nonetheless, there are limits, and everyone is entitled to decent treatment in the workplace.

The settlement is straightforward: I drop my claims, and the Senate reaffirms its commitment to its respectful workplace policy and the staff sanctions put in place in 2010.  The Senate will also undertake more extensive training in its policies, and it is considering revising the policy to provide for Senators—one from each caucus—to act as respectful workplace facilitators.  For the first time, staff would have direct access to a designated member with whom they could confidentially discuss workplace problems, particularly with other Senators.  When warranted, this means that a Senator would be right there ready to assist the employee if action needed to be taken.  While I hope it will never be needed, this is a change that I think would go a long way towards keeping an appropriate balance in member and staff interaction.  The Senate also affirms that it will not retaliate against me or anyone who assisted me with my claims—again, consistent with its own policy.  The Senate will pay for my attorney’s fees (up to $15,000), and it will restore my leave balances to what they would have been had I not taken leave while making my claims.  Finally, the Senate will work with me to allow a smooth transition to any future employment.

I am pleased that the Senate is doing the right thing, honoring the respectful workplace policy, and considering policy changes that may help staff in the future.  I still think the Senate is an amazing and good place to work, with some incredibly talented members and staff.  I have no hard feelings towards anyone there, and I look forward to putting this matter behind me and continuing to work in public policy.

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