Federal Judge Denies Gay Plaintiff’s Partial Summary Judgment Motion on Sexual Orientation Discrimination Claims

Look beyond the four corners of a writing! Sound familiar? In the case of Carlson v. Lewis Cty. Hosp. Dist. No.1, 2017 WL 497604 (W.D. Wash. Feb. 7, 2017), it may be necessary to read beyond U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan’s opinion in order to better understand what should be a major factor in the ensuing litigation. As the case stands now, Judge Bryan has denied partial summary judgment for the gay plaintiff’s claims under the Washington Law against Discrimination (WLAD) and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Eric Carlson filed his sexual orientation discrimination suit against the Lewis County Hospital District, five members of Morton General Hospital’s board of directors, and the hospital’s human resources director, after he was terminated by the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Carlson was hired by the Hospital District as Morton General Hospital’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) on November 21, 2014. Hospital CEO Seth Whitmer made this decision, and subsequently awarded Carlson a retention bonus in December.   Carlson claimed that the hospital’s finances were a mess when he took over, and the bonus was recognition of the progress he was making in improving the situation. By the time of the board of directors executive session on December 17th, five of the six individual defendants (board members) had received word from various sources — including a disgruntled former customer of Carlson — of an opinion by a Western District of Washington bankruptcy judge; in dicta, the opinion suggested that Carlson may have been involved in a fraud to finance his own business venture in 2008, which several of the directors viewed with alarm.

For the full story, access the March 2017 issue of LGBT Law Notes.