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$42,500 paid to Black/Latina worker who alleged hostile work environment with coworker, managers

Clackamas County has settled a claim by a former employee of its Resolution Services department who threatened a lawsuit against a co-worker for allegedly creating a hostile work environment and discriminating against her due to her race.

According to a tort claim filed Nov. 30, 2020, the former employee sought damages of more than $15,000, but the county and plaintiff reached a settlement last month that included the payment of $42,500.

In the claim, Khaleia Tyra Taylor Black alleged that a coworker treated her differently than white coworkers and on several occasions targeted her because she is Black and Latina, while supervisors reportedly dismissed concerns. In the final settlement agreement, Taylor Black acknowledged that the payment is a compromise and is not to be construed as an admission of liability, fault, or wrongful or unlawful activity by any party.

Shawn Lillegren, county counsel, said this settlement resulted from the county's effort to avoid going to court over a disputed claim.

"The decision to reach a settlement in this case reflects an interest in resolving this dispute without litigation, which is often a slow and costly process," Lillegren said. "The county's commitment to a workplace free of discrimination and harassment has been and remains strong."

Of the total settlement amount, Clackamas County is paying $689.20 to Taylor Black for back wages, $29,310.80 for non-economic damages and $12,500 will be paid to Taylor Black's attorney. Lillegren said the allocation between back wages, attorney fees and non-economic damages was ultimately a decision by plaintiff, not the county.

The allegations came just months after the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution condemning violence and racism against Black Americans and people of color. It also came as a dramatic saga continues to unfold in which racist and bigoted statements made by County Commissioner Mark Shull have sparked statewide outrage and calls for his resignation. A recall campaign against Shull is expected to begin collecting signatures this month.

An office specialist within Resolution Services allegedly sought to cause Taylor Black to fail within the workplace by improperly training her and turning around to berate her for mistakes. In late April 2020, Taylor Black went on medical leave and was eventually notified she was to be terminated effective June 30, 2020, due to unsatisfactory performance.

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