Local

Planned Parenthood must pay damages to former employee, judge rules

The organization formerly known as Planned Parenthood of Central Washington has been ordered to pay a former employee more than $106,000 in damages after firing her because of a disability.

The money awarded to Shannon Sharp by a Benton County Superior Court judge includes more than $86,000 for back wages and $20,000 for emotional distress.

Karl Eastlund, the organization's CEO, also was ordered to pay Sharp $30,000 for emotional distress.

Sharp waged an eight-year battle against her former employer that culminated in a jury verdict in her favor in late June.

Her lawsuit claimed that Planned Parenthood fired her from her job as a regional manager after she was diagnosed with degenerative arthritis in her neck andback that required ongoing medical treatment.

Her neck and back pain sometimes made Sharp unable to perform all of her job functions, and her lawsuit alleged that Planned Parenthood fired her rather than provide reasonable accommodations, court documents said.

Planned Parenthood -- now Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho -- claimed in court that it fired Sharp because of her performance.

"In our view, we followed all laws and professional protocols when we terminated her employment due to performance;however, recently a court agreed that the former employee's claims had some merit," Planned Parenthood officials said in astatement at the time of the verdict. "While we believe we followed all laws, werespect the court process, and we aregrateful this legal process has concluded so that we can continue to focus on patient care."

Court documents said Sharp had never received a negative performance evaluation or reprimand, and that the organization's human resources department performed no independent investigation.

The lawsuit was filed in 2004 but was delayed for several years because Washington's anti-discrimination law was unsettled because of court battles and legislative changes, Sharp's attorney, Michael Saunders, told the Herald.

The case finally came to trial in June, and a jury found that Sharp was fired because of her disability.

Some questions about monetary payments remained, and Judge Cameron Mitchell on July 23 signed the judgments against Planned Parenthood for $106,000 and Eastlund for $30,000.

-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com

  Comments