WA State President Remains on Paid Leave Amid Charges of Sexual Harassment

Barrette “Bear” Green remains on paid leave from his job monitoring hospital patients’ abuse claims even after the state govt. paid a therapist $896,000 to settle a sexual harassment case against Green.  He has been temporarily replaced as president of the Washington Fedtn. of State Employees, Local 793, an affiliate of the Amer. Fedtn. of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Kathleen Lizee, whose lawsuit brought to light 14 years of harassment reports against Green at the Western State Hospital in Lakewood, is leading 12 other women in seeking Green’s firing, and more action by hospital and union officials to stop harassers.  “We don’t have a balance of power,” Lizee told the Seattle Times.  “You have the union protecting a person like Barrette and the management in collusion because it’s easier than fighting them.”  According to the Times, “The burly, garrulous man is nicknamed the ‘Green Machine’ for the color of the union’s T-shirts; the union has created a ‘Bear Green’ award for shop stewards.”

Less than year after Green’s hiring in 1989, new employee Christine Ewing told a supervisor that Green approached her while she was in leather restraints for a training exercise and whispered, “If only there weren’t people around, I could do anything to you and you couldn’t stop me.”  But state investigators dismissed the complaints of Ewing and another woman, Julie Curette-Steel, who says she hasn’t had a promotion or merit raise since.

Lizee said that Green would call her at her office and crudely describe what he wanted to do to her, then later barge into her office and threaten her career if she rebuffed him.  One time, acc. to Lizee, Green — who outweighs Lizee by more than 200 lbs., cornered her in an elevator and kissed her.  After that, Lizee always used the stairs at work.

In 2000, medical director Ira Klein asked Lizee why she didn’t support the union, and Lizee told her about Green’s behavior.  But when Klein filed a report, he said, hospital supervisors excoriated him, not Green.  Local 793 has bargaining power over more than three-quarters of the Western employees, and acc. to a memo gathered as evidence during Lizee’s lawsuit, managers feared that Green would “flood the system with grievances” if he got angry.

Lizee sued after she was transferred six times after going public with the charges.  The state settled the lawsuit with the payment to Lizee late last March, midway through the trial.  On May 9, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan appointed Seattle lawyer Michael Reiss as a special master to investigate the allegations of harassment and retaliation at the hospital.  And bowing to legislative complaints, the Dept. of Social & Health Services has hired a $200-an-hr. consultant to also look into the case.

But Greg Deveraux, the state union’s exec. director, said the investigations, feel somewhat like a witch hunt.”  Green still denies any wrongdoing. [Seattle Times, 4/20/03, 5/18/03: Tacoma News Tribune, 5/10/03]