Former sergeant sues for discrimination and retaliation
A former sergeant in the King County Sheriff’s Office has hired the Jack Connelly Law Firm in Tacoma to represent her in a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office. Sergeant Andrea Alexander was terminated for dishonesty in November of 2013 after she knowingly accepted over nine months of specialty pay for which she was not entitled. In 2013, she was removed from that post by Major Jerrell Wills (who is African American), and thus ineligible for the special pay.
According to the lawsuit filed by Alexander’s lawyer, Julie Kays, then Captain Shawn Ledford and Major Wills removed Alexander from the Patrol Training Officer (PTO) program for disciplinary reasons in a 2013 meeting. The lawsuit contends that “Alexander in that moment knew she was being treated differently than her peers because she is a woman, gay, and African American.” At no time during the internal investigation, Loudermill, or arbitration proceedings, had Alexander ever raise charges of discrimination or retaliation, nor did her labor representatives, the King County Police Officers Guild.
During the internal investigation Alexander was asked why she didn’t notify someone that she was improperly receiving extra payment, and she replied, “I’m tired of doing someone else’s work.” Major Brad Thompson and Chief Deputy Anne Kirkpatrick initially recommended demoting Alexander from sergeant to deputy, but after her Loudermill hearing with the Sheriff where Alexander failed to take any responsibility for her actions, they both changed their recommended discipline from demotion to termination. Sheriff John Urquhart concurred and terminated her employment in November 2013 (Loudermill letter attached).
In September of 2015, a neutral arbitrator agreed that Alexander knowingly accepted pay for work she was not doing and upheld the Sheriff’s Office’s “dishonesty” finding against her (Arbitration letter attached). However, the arbitrator changed the discipline from termination to a 20-day suspension without pay. The collective bargaining agreement with the King County Police Officer’s Guild allows for the decisions of a neutral arbitrator to supersede the findings and disciplinary decisions by the Sheriff.
Alexander rejoined the Sheriff’s Office in 2016 and received back pay, as ordered by the arbitrator. Alexander retired earlier this year.