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Lawsuit alleges PeaceHealth discriminated against former employee

In a complaint filed in Clark County Superior Court, a black former PeaceHealth employee alleges the hospital system subjected him to months of racial discrimination.

Vancouver attorney Colin F. McHugh of Navigate Law Group filed the lawsuit Friday on behalf of Washougal resident Jeff Darden, who worked as a project manager for PeaceHealth.

A press release from the law office asserts that Darden, who has more than 25 years of experience working in health care project management, was the victim of harassment, discrimination and retaliation. As a result, he was passed over for several promotions.

“Mr. Darden’s sole goal was to be treated like everyone else in the workplace,” McHugh said in a statement. “Not only did PeaceHealth officials fail to act regarding Mr. Darden’s complaints about race discrimination, but he was continually reprimanded after bringing his credible concerns and reports of race discrimination to PeaceHealth officials.”

PeaceHealth did not respond to a request for comment.

Darden is seeking damages for emotional distress, humiliation, lost wages and attorneys’ fees. No dollar amount is listed.

According to the complaint, Darden was hired in December 2017 and worked at PeaceHealth until last month, when he resigned. From December 2017 to early July 2018, there were no performance issues reported by Darden’s supervisors, the complaint states. However, the complaint alleges he was mistreated after being assigned to a new supervisor.

After failing to receive promotions in August and December 2018, Darden filed a harassment complaint against his new supervisor with human resources. He received his first corrective action notice later that month, and he was taken off a project, according to the lawsuit. When Darden followed up with human resources about his complaint, he was told there was no evidence of harassment.

According to the suit, PeaceHealth never found any evidence of discrimination against Darden, despite two other employees sharing with human resources that they had also experienced discrimination and believed that Darden had been discriminated against.

In May 2019, after Darden filed a complaint of race discrimination, his supervisor allegedly removed him from a project manager position.

A couple weeks later, another supervisor allegedly yelled in Darden’s face. Fearing for his safety, Darden again went to human resources but was allegedly told they could not substantiate his complaints. Within days, he was given a second corrective action notice.

In late June, Darden filed a complaint of racial discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He subsequently requested medical leave until October because of anxiety, panic attacks and other symptoms connected to his work environment, McHugh said in an email.

Days after going on medical leave, Darden received an email from human resources declining to investigate his claims, as well as his request to work under a different supervisor, according to the complaint.

In late December 2019, he told human resources that one supervisor was “attempting to dig up dirt” on him to damage his reputation. Afterward, Darden was given a third corrective action notice, according to the complaint.

In January, PeaceHealth denied a request from Darden’s medical provider asking that he be assigned to a different supervisor. He took another medical leave from mid-January to early March. Darden resigned from his position in early March, citing discrimination, harassment, unfair treatment and a hostile work environment, the complaint states.


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