State Politics

Fish & Game settles discrimination case for $100K. State paid $167K to defend it

The state has paid $100,000 to settle a civil rights violation lawsuit filed by a former Idaho Fish and Game employee.

Danielle Dorsch sued the state alleging that during the course of her employment she was consistently subject to sexual discrimination, a hostile work environment and retaliation and that she has audio tapes to prove it.

Dorsch began working for Fish and Game in 2008 at its Sawtooth Fish Hatchery near Stanley. Over the next eight years, she said she often applied for promotions and transfers, but most of her applications were rejected because of her gender and in retaliation for complaining about that discrimination, according to court records. She also alleged that while working for Fish and Game, she was subjected to a hostile work environment, leading to her resignation in 2016.

After she left Fish and Game, Dorsch filed complaints with the Idaho Human Rights Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Both commissions issued her a notice of right to sue, which is required before a lawsuit alleging civil rights violations can be filed in federal court.

Dorsch filed her complaint in Boise federal court in October 2017. A judge dismissed the case as settled on Oct. 3. A trial was slated to start Nov. 4.

Fish and Game paid $50,000 of the settlement and Idaho Department of Administration Risk Management Program, which handled the case for Fish and Game, also paid $50,000.

In addition to the settlement paid to Dorsch, the state paid $167,556 in legal costs defending the case, according to Risk Management.

“I stood up for what I believe, and presented a case with powerful evidence, all in the hopes that what happened to me won’t happen to anyone else,” Dorsch told the Statesman in a written statement on Tuesday. “Ultimately, I chose the settlement to protect myself and my family from further emotional damage. IDF&G knows what happened, and I think the settlement reflects that.”

Fish and Game said settling the case “was not an easy decision for the department to make,” according to a written statement sent to the Statesman.

“Fish and Game’s decision to settle this case is in no way a reflection of any wrongdoing on the part of the department or staff identified in the lawsuit,” the statement read. “The court dismissed several of the lawsuit’s claims earlier, but some claims remained for a jury trial to decide. The department’s actions were appropriate and executed in good faith and with good intentions. The decision to settle the lawsuit was made in part to avoid a contentious, lengthy trial that would have taken a toll on staff as well as to avoid considerable legal costs and personnel time.”

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Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.
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