Prue v. Univ. of Wash.

Prue v. Univ. of Wash.No. C07-1859RSL, 2009 WL 302272, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13085 (W.D. Wash. Feb. 5, 2009)

The plaintiff, a fifty-five year old African American man, sought work through a staffing agency that filled temporary positions for the University of Washington. He alleged that the defendants discriminated against him because of his age and race during an interview that the staffing agency arranged. The plaintiff was not offered the position, and his interview for the job lasted half as long as the defendant’s interview with the only other candidate—a White male. After the interview, the plaintiff emailed the staffing agency and told them that the incident made him feel “badly discriminated against.” Prue at 3. Then, “for unknown reasons,” the staffing agency posted that email on the plaintiff’s employee profile in its database, allowing every staffing coordinator to see his email. Id. Subsequently, the staffing agency only offered the plaintiff “blue collar work,” such as moving furniture and parking cars. Id.

In response, the plaintiff sued the defendants for violating federal and state laws against discrimination and retaliation. In denying defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the court noted that plaintiffs in discrimination cases are “not required to produce a ‘smoking gun’” to defeat motions for summary judgment, and indirect evidence alone can suffice. See id. at 5. The court ruled that a jury could find that the staffing agency’s posting of the plaintiff’s email to his employee profile constituted “an adverse action” which could discourage reasonable employees from reporting discrimination, and could “create bias” against the plaintiff. Id. at 7. Thus, the plaintiff was allowed to proceed with his discrimination and retaliation claims.