Labor & Employment

Ex-prosecutor sues, says she was treated differently and paid less than men in US Attorney's office

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A former federal prosecutor in Spokane, Washington, has brought an employment discrimination suit against Attorney General Loretta Lynch in her position as the head of the Department of Justice.

Filed Wednesday in federal court in the Eastern District of Washington, the complaint (PDF) by Katherine J. “Jill” Bolton accuses U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby of treating her differently than comparable male employees and paying her less, after she was promoted in 2012 to the supervisory position of deputy criminal chief. Bolton had begun working for the U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Washington in 2002.

This disparate treatment, she alleges, “was designed to reinforce that her position as a team leader over male subordinates was seen as a ‘token’ position, and not one of true authority.”

Specifically, Bolton says she got smaller bonuses than men who have held her position and was excluded from meetings. Meanwhile, among other conduct that undermined her authority, leaders in the office encouraged attorneys Bolton supervised to circumvent her decisions by going directly to them, the complaint alleges.

Employing gender stereotypes, those in charge gave aggressive male prosecutors a pass but criticized her for being “rude” and “lacking collegiality,” Bolton contends.

Collectively, the suit says, such conduct created an environment in which a male prosecutor under her supervision, for instance, felt free to say of Bolton to her legal secretary “I hate that f—— bitch.”

When Bolton began seeking information about salaries and bonuses paid to other prosecutors, her Freedom of Information Act requests sat unprocessed for nearly three years, the complaint continues. Then, when others in the office gave her material containing pay information, she was severely disciplined and threatened with prosecution, even though those who gave her the information were not, Bolton alleges. The information at issue, she says, was not considered “classified, secret, law enforcement sensitive or top secret.”

Ormsby allegedly announced at a staff meeting a “security breach” that put employees of the office at risk and had Bolton’s security clearance lifted, which put her on indefinite suspension without pay in November 2014 until the Office of the Inspector General could complete an investigation. That investigation has not yet been completed, according to the suit. On Oct. 15, 2015, she quit, Bolton says, because she could not work as a lawyer elsewhere while still technically being a federal prosecutor, and she needed the money.

In addition to alleging that she was treated less favorably than male prosecutors concerning the claimed security breach, Bolton also contends she suffered retaliation for her efforts to pursue an equal-pay complaint internally.

Reached by telephone Wednesday by the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Ormsby declined to comment.

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