The Wrong Question: Boise Weekly Probe Triggers Lawsuits in Idaho, Federal Courts

Labor Department, Human Rights Commission named in discrimination suits


The other shoe has dropped in a discrimination case against the Idaho Department of Labor. In an exclusive Boise Weekly report from November 2014 (and reported by the Idaho Statesman and other Idaho media today), we chronicled how Don Dew was considered a prime candidate for the position of administrator of the Idaho Human Rights Commission—to the point that Department of Labor officials interviewed him on numerous occasions and decided to fly Dew to Idaho for in-person conversations that involved a possible salary and start date.

"I definitely had the sense that the IHRC was about to recommend me for the position," Dew told BW. "But I had been told that since the IHRC was placed under the Labor Department in 2010, the Labor Department director [Ken Edmunds] would have the final say in the matter."

When then-IHRC Administrator Pam Parks escorted Dew to Edmunds' fourth-floor office at the DOL, things took a dramatic turn.

"He made me feel like I was less than a person," Dew told BW, referring to Edmunds' alleged questioning of his disability—an epileptic seizure disorder—and whether it would limit his ability to work a 40-hour week. Additionally, Dew learned that at the time of his interview with Edmunds, Parks had referenced Dew's sexual orientation. 

BW's investigation triggered a tort claim against the state and, on May 1, attorneys for Dew filed a lawsuit in U.S. court with a demand for a jury trial, naming Edmunds and Parks as defendants and claiming unlawful discrimination, violation of the Civil Rights Act, violation of the Equal Protection Clause and emotional distress. Dew is seeking a $10 million judgment.

Concurrently, a lawsuit has been filed in Idaho court, naming Edmunds, Parks, the Idaho Department of Labor and the Idaho Human Rights Commission, again demanding a jury trial. The state lawsuit follows on the heels of the initial tort claim, filed in January. But Edmunds, Parks and the state agencies allowed a 90-day statutory period to end, thus triggering the civil action against the state.

Dew's attorneys, Ron Coulter and Holly Sutherland, of Eagle-based Idaho Employment Law Solutions, said the details of Dew's plight first came on their radar when they read the BW report.

"It was stunning to me when I read the Boise Weekly story. I thought, 'Jesus Christ. I can't believe they did this,'" said Coulter.

You can read the full complaints, filed in federal and state court, below.

See related PDF Complaint_Filed_in_Idaho_State_Court_May_4_2015.pdf See related PDF Complaint_of_Discrimination_Filed_in_Federal_Cout_May_1_2015.pdf