A former employee with the Oak Harbor solid waste department filed a lawsuit claiming sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
The attorney representing Nancy Hover and her husband filed the claim against the city and her former supervisor in Island County Superior Court Nov. 2.
The lawsuit asks for general damages, damages for mental anguish and emotional distress, medical expenses, lost wages and attorney’s fees. The total amount of the damages are unspecified in the lawsuit, but Hover demanded $350,000 in an original complaint for damages filed with the city.
The lawsuit claims Hover was a victim of gender discrimination, a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and retaliation.
Hover’s attorney, Robert Butler of Bellingham, said his client loved her job and worked at the city for many years, despite the hostile environment.
“We’re pretty disappointed that the city is tolerating sexual harassment and gender discrimination in this day in age,” he said.
The lawsuit states Hover was hired as a solid waste collector in 2005. It claims her supervisor told her she wasn’t welcome there because she was a woman and that she was only hired because she is a woman.
Her supervisor complained that the male employees would have to change their sexually explicit language, jokes and reading material, even though she “said nothing and did nothing, other than being hired, that would have prompted those comments,” the lawsuit states.
In addition, Hover claims she was consistently singled out and treated differently by her supervisor, who also warned her frequently that her co-workers didn’t want her there and would be hostile toward her.
According to the lawsuit, Hover made numerous complaints to other supervisors in the public works department and human resources, but no action was taken for a long time.
Eventually, an investigation was opened, but Hover, instead of her supervisor, was placed on administrative leave for several months. She was allowed to come back, but the hostility continued, the lawsuit claims. She “was forced to quit,” the claim states.
Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley said most of the allegations occurred before he was elected mayor, but he’s confident that city administration, particularly the former human resources director, handled the woman’s complaints appropriately.