Kennewick Irrigation District declares victory on discrimination lawsuit

Tri-City HeraldAugust 6, 2013 

Kennewick Irrigation District officials proclaimed a win Tuesday in an employment discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former employee, Joetta Rupert.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Vic VanderSchoor granted the district’s request for a summary judgment last week, attorney Brian Iller told the KID board.

“That oral ruling is a major victory for the district,” Iller said.

Rupert, a former manager of KID’s realty division, was fired in July 2010 after the board questioned her use of sick leave to attend a civil trial related to injuries she suffered in an auto accident, according to Herald archives.

Rupert claimed she suffered from discrimination and a hostile work place because she is a woman, and that her firing was retaliation for reporting the work environment, according to court documents. She also claimed retaliation for alleging misuse of a KID endowment fund for the Red Mountain project when a now-former board director was trying to buy land on Red Mountain.

Iller told the KID board that VanderSchoor decided in favor of the district on all claims made by Rupert, except for a claim for unpaid wages.

However, there is no longer a basis for the unpaid wages claims after VanderSchoor’s decision, he said.

Iller said a written ruling should be issued in the next couple of weeks. Rupert will then have 30 days to decide whether to appeal.

“Hopefully in 45 days this will be behind us,” said KID board president Gene Huffman.

Rupert’s Spokane attorney, Michael Cressey, told the Herald he intends to advise Rupert to appeal and she likely is to follow his recommendation.

He does not believe the judge should have dismissed the case with no explanation of his reasoning, he said.

Rupert was earning $80,000 a year before she was fired after being placed on administrative leave, according to Herald archives.

She filed a $1 million wrongful termination claim alleging gender discrimination prior to filing a lawsuit. 

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