Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced that area car dealer Greenacres Motors admitted to the AG’s allegations of a pattern of sexual harassment by its former owner and employee, Monte L. Masingale.
In a consent decree filed yesterday in Spokane County Superior Court, two companies that jointly do business as Greenacres agreed to accept fines and penalties totaling $280,000. The businesses will also adopt a non-discrimination policy, reporting and recordkeeping requirements, and give all their employees antidiscrimination training.
“This resolution offers validation and a measure of justice for the victims,” Ferguson said. “Let this be a message to victims: Speak out when faced with this kind of abuse. We will take your allegations seriously. It’s also a message to harassers and the businesses who look the other way: My office will hold you accountable.”
The decree includes monetary relief, including $130,000 for Masingale’s victims, $30,000 in civil penalties and $120,000 in costs and attorneys’ fees.
The dealerships’ current owner is in bankruptcy, so the actual amount victims and the state will receive is uncertain. The consent decree, filed in Spokane County Superior Court, includes a requirement that the debtors prioritize payments to the victims, if allowed by the Bankruptcy Court.
Masingale himself was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit but died in July 2016.
Ferguson filed a lawsuit in October 2015. Masingale frequently posted help-wanted ads for a secretary in newspapers and on websites like Craigslist. Masingale refused to hire males for the position, and sexually harassed young women who applied.
Victims’ reports show a distinct pattern. Masingale made unwelcome sexual comments and advances, touched and groped female employees without their permission and asked female employees to agree to a sexual relationship as a condition of continued employment. Many women quit rather than continue to be subjected to Masingale’s harassment, and some reported it to the police.
Greenacres operates dealerships in Spokane, Spokane Valley and Post Falls. In November 2016, the companies admitted that they knew or should have known about Masingale’s harassment and are responsible for his conduct. The companies withdrew their previous court filings that denied Ferguson’s allegations.
Sexual harassment in the workplace violates the Washington Law Against Discrimination. An employer may not condition a job, or a job benefit like better hours or a promotion, on an employee’s agreement to have sex.
It is also against the law for an employer to create a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment exists where an employer or manager’s sexual behavior is serious enough to create an abusive working environment or otherwise interfere with an employee’s ability to do his or her job. The behavior could include sexual comments or jokes, requests for dates or sex, or touching an employee without permission.
Harassing behavior and misleading job advertisements can also constitute unfair or deceptive practices in violation of the state Consumer Protection Act.
Assistant Attorneys General Colleen Melody and Chalia Stallings-Ala’ilima of the Attorney General’s Office’s Wing Luke Civil Rights Unit handled the case.
The Wing Luke Civil Rights Unit works to protect the rights of all Washington residents by enforcing state and federal anti-discrimination laws. It is named for Wing Luke, who served as an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Washington in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He went on to become the first person of color elected to the Seattle City Council and the first Asian-American elected to public office in the Pacific Northwest.