KENNEWICK -- The three women who in August filed discrimination claims against Washington State University Tri-Cities have filed a lawsuit in Benton County Superior Court against the university, their former supervisor and his wife.
Anna Mitson, Christina Davis and Johan Curtiss claim that Jaime Contreras, the former director of student affairs on the Richland campus, subjected them to sexual discrimination and a hostile work environment.
Mitson also is claiming racial discrimination by Contreras.
As the Herald reported in May, Contreras was accused of harassing subordinates and students by calling them racially derogatory names and making sexual remarks.
The three women allege that they were retaliated against by Contreras and the university after they reported the discrimination to the university.
They write in the lawsuit that Contreras "either directly or through family members defamed" them.
This is why Contreras' wife, Anna, is listed as a defendant in the suit, the women's attorney, George Fearing, told the Herald. Anna Contreras "uttered some of the defamatory statements," Fearing said.
Her husband, who resigned from his WSU position this spring, was the subject of an investigation by the university's civil rights office earlier this year after the three women and other employees accused him of harassment and discrimination.
Investigators from WSU's main campus in Pullman issued a report in March that backed the employees' accusations and said WSU should take "corrective action" with Contreras.
He resigned shortly after.
But by then Mitson already had left her position at the office of student affairs. Davis resigned soon after Contreras did.
The two claim in the lawsuit that the treatment they were subjected to amounted to a "constructive discharge," which means work conditions were so intolerable that any reasonable person would have to quit.
They suffered lost wages and benefits because of their de facto firing, the two women claim. Curtiss might face the same constructive discharge in the future, the lawsuit states.
Curtiss still works in the WSU student affairs office. She also is a candidate for the West Richland City Council in next month's election.
The lawsuit claims that the three women have suffered emotional distress, humiliation, injury to reputation and other pain and suffering during their time working with Contreras, whom WSU "negligently hired, retained and supervised."
For that, they seek compensation "in an amount to be determined at trial."
WSU Chancellor Vicky Carwein this week said she had not been aware of the lawsuit and that the state Attorney General's office had taken over the case ever since the women filed their tort claim in August.
Contreras did not return messages left on his voice mail at home Thursday.
The trial is scheduled for September 2012.
-- Jacques Von Lunen: 582-1402; email@example.com