The Daily Evergreen

Former employee sues WSU, Schulz

Suit claims school violated civil rights, whistleblower laws

IAN SMAY, Evergreen news editor

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WSU and various administrators, including President Kirk Schulz, were named in a lawsuit by a former employee filed in April.

The suit, filed by Darryl Riser of Colton, alleges WSU and the administrators violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment of due process and equal protection rights in their handling of an ethics violation he reported.  He asks for a total of over $9 million in damages from all parties.

Riser, a former university employee, claims in the lawsuit that he had formally discussed concerns of violations in various departments at WSU, including discrimination of students in the Student Financial Aid Department, FERPA and OSHA violations, among others.

“Given that this is pending litigation, we are not at liberty to discuss the situation,” Phil Weiler, vice president of marketing and communications at WSU, said.

Riser could not immediately be reached for comment.

The full list of defendants listed in the filing include Schulz, Office of Equal Opportunity

Assistant Director Holly Ashkannejhad, Academic Affairs Budget Director Don Holbrook, Assistant Vice President of SFS Brian Dixon, WSU HR Consultant Teddi Phares and Randi Croyle.

One of the claims brought forth by Riser states the university suspended him on January 5 without due process, including no chance to appeal the suspension. After reporting this issue, Riser states Ashkannejhad did not respond to his concerns.

The second claim states Holbrook sent Riser a notice of disciplinary action via email saying he had work performance issues in November 2017, the same month Riser reported ethics violations. Riser is protected from retaliation from the university over filing ethics violations by whistleblower protection laws in Washington State.

Riser goes on to claim he filed for an appeal within the two-week period required for formal appeals requests, but that WSU did not give him a “legal impartial formal hearing.”

The third claim in the filing again names Holbrook, this time stating he had sent Riser a termination notice on March 8, citing work performance issues. Riser appealed once more and claims that WSU did not carry out the process correctly or fairly.

The fourth claim by Riser names Ashkannejhad and Phares, alleging they had sent him a biased investigation report into Riser’s concerns of race and gender discrimination as well as his claims of unlawful retaliation.

Riser then made a claim in regards to a salary increase request he made in October 2017. WSU provided Riser with two options to gain a salary increase. Riser then states that Holbrook responded to Riser’s request with a separate process than was listed before.

Riser claims he sought clarification on the matter from WSU’s Human Resource Services and the WSU Board of Regents, who did not explain the decision and again required Riser to go through the process listed by Holbrook instead of one of the two previously outlined by WSU.

Further claims in the suit deal with “willful misconduct” including claims that Schulz mishandled the process in responding to Riser’s petitions for the university to terminate the employment of Holbrook, Dixon and Croyle for their roles in the situation leading up to and following Riser’s firing.

Additional misconduct claims cover Schulz’s handling of complaints against Ashkannejhad and Phares.

Others involved “breach of fiduciary duty,” and fraud by Holbrook, accusing him of purposely misrepresenting an administrative procedure falsely. Another covers defamation, libel and slander, “extreme and outrageous conduct,” and the intentional infliction of emotional distress by various defendants.

In all, Riser made 24 claims in his lawsuit against WSU and the other defendants. Riser asks for at least $600,000 from WSU for each count brought against the university and $300,000 for each count brought against each individual defendant.

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About the Writer
IAN SMAY, Evergreen reporter

Ian Smay is a senior journalism & media production major, with an emphasis in broadcast news, from Dayton, Washington. He is also minoring in criminal...

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Former employee sues WSU, Schulz