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Zhu v. Bridgeport School District & ESD 171

These cases involve Jin Zhu, a Chinese-American citizen who taught math and science at Waterville Secondary School from 2006 to 2012.  During his employment at Waterville School District Mr. Zhu experienced racial discrimination, reported that discrimination, and was placed on administrative leave after he reported the discrimination he was experiencing. Ultimately Mr. Zhu filed a federal lawsuit against Waterville School District.  The Waterville lawsuit settled in March 2012 and, as a condition of the settlement, Mr. Zhu was required to cease working at Waterville Secondary School.


In May 2012 and April 2013 Mr. Zhu applied for two job openings with North Central Educational Services District 171 (ESD 171).  ESD 171, well aware of Mr. Zhu’s federal lawsuit against Waterville, did not hire Mr. Zhu for either position even though he was objectively the most qualified candidate for either position. A copy of Mr. Zhu’s 42 USC 1981 race discrimination/retaliation and Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) lawsuit against ESD 171 is available here.  Mr. Zhu has moved to amend his complaint to include a Washington Public Record Act claim.  A copy of Mr. Zhu’s motion to amend is available here.


In August 2012, March 2013, and April 2013, Mr. Zhu applied for numerous math and science teacher job openings with the Bridgeport School District. ESD 171 provides support services to Bridgeport School District. Although Mr. Zhu was unquestionably the most qualified candidate for all of those positions, Bridgeport School District did not even allow him to interview for any of the jobs for which he applied. A copy of Mr. Zhu’s 42 U.S.C. 1981 race discrimination, retaliation, and Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) lawsuit is available here.


Mr. Zhu has sought summary judgment adjudication of his Public Record Act and Washington Law Against Discrimination disparate impact claims against ESD 171.  Copies of Mr. Zhu’s Motion for Summary Judgment and Statement of Facts in support of that Motion are available here and here.  On August 22, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington found that ESD 171 violated the Washington State Public Record Act by improperly withholding documents that were subject to a public record request Mr. Zhu made for District policies regarding minority hiring.  A copy of the Court’s order is available here. On September 16, 2016, a federal jury awarded Mr. Zhu $450,000 “plus legal fees” in finding that ESD 171 unlawfully retaliated against Mr. Zhu by failing to hire him.


Following the jury’s verdict in favor of Mr. Zhu the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Washington certified, to the Washington State Supreme Court, the question of whether the Washington Law Against Discrimination’s anti-retaliation statute, RCW 49.60.210, covers instances in which an employer refuses to hire an employee who, like Mr. Zhu, sued his prior employer for race discrimination. A copy of Mr. Zhu’s Supreme Court brief is available here.



The Washington Employment Lawyers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Washington State Association of Justice have submitted amicus briefs in support of Mr. Zhu. Copies of those briefings are available here, here, and here.


On November 9, 2017, the Washington State Supreme Court, in a 9-0 decision, agreed with Mr. Zhu and held, for the first time in the history of the Washington Law Against Discrimination, that an employer cannot refuse to hire a job applicant who sued his or her former employer for discrimination. A copy of the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision is available here.


On February 15, 2018, the trial court ruled on Mr. Zhu’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs. The trial court ordered that ESD 171 pay not only the $450,000.00 jury award but an additional $326,000.00 in legal fees and litigation costs. The trial court’s order, which is available here, brings the total amount ESD 171 owes Mr. Zhu to $777,363.22. ESD 171’s pre-trial offer to settle the case was $25,000.00.


After the trial court issued its order on attorneys’ fees, ESD 171 appealed the matter to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. Zhu then brought a Motion to Dismiss the appeal and based the motion on the fact that ESD 171 did not file the appeal in a timely manner.


In August 2018 the parties agreed to resolve the above-captioned lawsuits.

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