Seattle Public School District to Pay $500,000 to Settle A Sexual Harassment Case Brought by The Blankenship Law Firm.
Seattle Public School District agreed to pay $500,000 to a 15-year former employee who alleged she was repeatedly harassed by the District’s Executive Director of Athletics and experienced severe retaliation after she filed a formal written complaint.
November 1, 2018 — Former Seattle Public Schools Program Liaison Ms. Krystyana Brame settled her lawsuit against the Seattle Public School District today. Ms. Brame’s lawsuit alleged that the Executive Director of Athletics, Eric McCurdy, created a hostile work environment based on her gender and race, such as calling her “a fat white girl,” using extremely vulgar and sexual profanity, and belittling her for being a woman and then retaliating against her.
After Ms. Brame filed a written complaint about Executive Director McCurdy’s behavior on November 16, 2015, the District opened an investigation. During this investigation, the District still required Ms. Brame to report to McCurdy, who Ms. Brame alleges then began a four-month campaign of retaliation so severe it forced her to quit on March 20, 2016. Ms. Brame left behind a successful 15-year career at the Seattle Public School District.
According to her attorney Scott Blankenship “The District did not finalize its investigation until after she resigned. Before she left, it asked her to drop her complaint against McCurdy and sign a release and waiver of all her claims in exchange for 9 days of PTO. Ms. Brame wanted justice and change for herself and her coworkers. The District seemingly ignored her complaints and had sided with Executive Director of Athletics McCurdy.”
The District’s formal investigation concluded on June 20, 2016, more than two months after Ms. Brame’s resignation and eight months after her written complaint to HR. The District found no violation by its Executive Director Eric McCurdy. Ms. Brame appealed the decision on June 29, 2016 to the Superintendent. She outlined her concerns in detail, and wrote that “[t]he choice of response to this matter is deeply concerning because if these findings are instated as they are, Mr. McCurdy’s cycle of abuse will be allowed to continue.”
The District’s April 12, 2016 investigative report actually confirmed many of Ms. Brame’s allegations against Executive Director McCurdy. The report outlined graphic and obscene sexual comments by Director McCurdy in vivid detail. The report also documented hostile and discriminatory comments by McCurdy about Ms. Brame’s marriage, such as saying that she had “become lazy after getting married” and that “she needed to go home, feed her husband and son and put them to bed, then get back to work on her emails.”
In a letter written on July 28, 2016 by Deputy Superintendent Stephen J. Nielsen, the District reversed its own position on Director McCurdy. It found that McCurdy violated the District’s policy against Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying. “What the district did was too little too late. The final appeal and the facts gathered from the investigation had confirmed many of Ms. Brame’s allegations, but the District did not take any meaningful actions to discipline McCurdy,” said Brame’s Attorney Scott Blankenship.
Ms. Brame hopes that this settlement will have a wider impact on companies and public entities where sexual harassment and retaliation are still rampant: “I couldn’t stay silent and allow others to experience the harassment I did for five-years and having it swept under the rug because of the abuser’s title. I needed to make a statement without confidentiality. My hope is that this settlement will force the Seattle Public Schools to take notice of complaints like mine seriously and not let them go unheard.”
Eric McCurdy is still employed by Seattle Public Schools.
Scott Blankenship served as lead counsel for Mrs. Brame with associate attorney Rick Goldsworthy of The Blankenship Law Firm. The Blankenship Law Firm is an AV-rated law firm located in downtown Seattle with lawyers licensed in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. The firm practices in state and federal courts, while practicing primarily employment law and related complex civil litigation in all phases of negotiation and litigation including appeals. Key documents are hyperlinked and embedded in this release. More information is available online at www.blankenshiplawfirm.com/