Trinh and Bailey v. City of Seattle




Court of AppealsArgued by Sheridan

Jury verdict affirmed

2008 Wash. App. LEXIS 1391 (1998). The Court affirmed Phi Trinh’s verdict of $947,290.00 ($772,000 as damages for emotional harm). The jury awarded Mattie Bailey $503,195.00 ($462,000 as damages for emotional harm), but the Court sent her case back to the trial court to reevaluate the damages having found that one of her claims was outside the statute of limitations.  See home page for subsequent +$800,000 settlement of Ms. Bailey’s case.The Court of Appeals opinion depicts ten years of success and job satisfaction by Mr. Trinh and Ms. Bailey under Superintendents Hardy and Bradley followed by ten years of discrimination and harassment under Superintendents Zarker and Carrasco.


The City of Seattle has settled a race discrimination lawsuit brought by former Seattle City Light Manager Mattie Bailey for the sum of $812,250.00.  Today Bailey filed documents to dismiss her lawsuit in light of the settlement.  The settlement comes more than two years after a King County jury awarded Ms. Bailey the sum of $503,195.00 ($462,000 as damages for emotional harm) for race discrimination and harassment by other City Light managers.  The jury award came in February 2007 after a six-week jury trial. 

At trial, Sheridan presented evidence that Bailey, who is African American, worked for City Light from 1981 until her retirement in 2008.  For the first decade of her employment, Ms. Bailey proved herself as a top-level manager working as a direct report to two superintendents and heading the Communications Division.  When Gary Zarker became superintendent, he reorganized Bailey’s division. Zarker gradually took away her responsibilities and gave them to Caucasian new hires.  In 1999, Zarker hired Robert Royer to serve as the Director of Communications. Bailey then reported to Royer who, as a member of the executive team, reported directly to Zarker and later to Jorge Carrasco, who replaced Zarker in 2004.

Sheridan also presented evidence that under Royer, Bailey was removed from most of her managerial duties and given clerical work, such as processing invoices. At a staff meeting attended by Bailey, Royer expressed admiration for Thomas Jefferson’s “fatherly relationship” to his slaves. In a private meeting with Bailey, Royer compared her with the African American movie character “Super Fly” because she was wearing sunglasses.

The jury found that City Light had created a hostile work environment in its daily treatment of Ms. Bailey and that the City had discriminated against Ms. Bailey by failing to give her equitable pay. 

The City appealed the jury verdict and in 2008, the Division One Court of Appeals affirmed the jury’s verdict on the harassment claim, but overturned the pay claim following the U.S. Supreme Court holding in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., which held that under federal law, the statute of limitations begins to run when the first paycheck is issued rather than when the plaintiff learns that she is being underpaid. 

In a press release, Jack Sheridan stated, “We disagreed with the Court of Appeals’ ruling because Ledbetter was a federal case and Ms. Bailey’s case was brought under state law, which provides greater civil rights protections than federal law, but even after Congress and President Obama overturned the Ledbetter decision through legislation, we could not convince the Court of Appeals to change its decision.  We had to accept that we were going to retry the case on damages.” 

As to the settlement, Sheridan said, “Had we gone to a second trial, Ms. Bailey was prepared to prove her damages from the first trial and to show that after the February 2007 jury verdict, the harassment continued and that she was treated more like a office assistant than a manager, which caused her to take early retirement.”  

Sheridan indicated that “Mattie was a great manager and the City wasted her as a resource because it allowed the good old boys to run the utility instead of awarding jobs based on merit.”

See Seattle Times Article