Tacoma Jury Awards $521,600 To Disabled Employee Of Dental Practice For Disability Discrimination And Retaliation

Aug 27, 2015, 14:33 ET from Gordon Thomas Honeywell LLP

TACOMA, Wash., Aug. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- On August 26, 2015, after a six-day trial in Pierce County Superior Court, the jury awarded Plaintiff Evelyn Provost $521,600 in damages for the disability discrimination and retaliation she suffered at work at Graham Family Dentistry and Graham Denture Center. The jury's award was against the Defendant clinics and owners Suzie and Thomas Henry.

Evelyn Provost worked for 6½ years as a dental assistant for Graham Family Dentistry and Graham Denture Center and the Henry's. Multiple witnesses at trial testified that Provost was one of the Defendants' top dental assistants. Provost had a series of knee surgeries a decade ago, leaving her with a noticeable limp and has a rare neurological condition that affects her legs, yet she is able to walk without assistance. After a non-disabled employee at another office fell at work and injured his hand, resulting in a costly L&I claim, Defendants unilaterally decided that Provost's limp posed a workplace hazard, because someone with a disability like hers was more prone to falling – potentially leading to another costly L&I claim.

Defendants removed Ms. Provost from her job and told her she could come back when she got her knee "fixed." At trial the Defendants claimed that they told her she could return with a doctor's note. Ms. Provost testified that it was only after this lawsuit was filed that Defendants agreed to allow her back with a doctor's clearance. However, when she returned Defendants started building a file on her and reduced her hours, assigned her to work Saturdays and to travel to a variety of other dental offices across Pierce County to work. Ms. Provost declined to continue working in the face of this retaliation and pursued both discrimination and retaliation claims at trial. The jury awarded Ms. Provost $47,000 in lost wages up to the time of trial, as well as damages of future lost wages of $195,000 for the next five years through her planned date of retirement. In addition, the jury awarded $280,000 in damages for the emotional distress Ms. Provost experienced in the loss of her job. Despite consistent efforts, she has not been able to find other work.

Ms. Provost was represented by Tacoma attorney Stephanie Bloomfield of Gordon Thomas Honeywell LLP. "This entire situation was a severe injustice and hardship for a good employee who worked hard and was more than able to do her job," Bloomfield said. "An employer's misguided perception that a person with a disability is a workplace hazard does not trump the protections of our laws against discrimination."

In addition to these damages, Attorneys' fees will also be awarded by the court at a later date, because Washington's Law Against Discrimination provides for an award of fees to an employee who wins a discrimination or retaliation lawsuit against an employer.


Gordon, Thomas, Honeywell, LLP  

Stephanie Bloomfield

1201 Pacific Avenue, Suite 2100       

(253) 620-6514 (office)

Tacoma, WA 98402                       

(253) 370-0870 (cell)


SOURCE Gordon Thomas Honeywell LLP