Fired former worker sues Pierce Transit

Man says he was improperly terminated after agency learned of criminal record

adam.lynn@thenewstribune.comApril 1, 2013 

A man hired at an annual salary of more than $100,000 by Pierce Transit in 2012 now is suing the agency, claiming it improperly fired him after learning of his criminal record.

James Lunsford seeks unspecified damages for wrongful termination. Lawyer Mark Olson of Everett filed the lawsuit on Lunsford’s behalf in Pierce County Superior Court last week.

Pierce Transit, through spokeswoman Carol Mitchell, declined to comment.

The agency completed “interviews and background checks” before offering Lunsford a job as procurement manager in May, the lawsuit states.

Lunsford left his job as a contracts manager with the State of Washington’s Liquor Control Board, where he made more than $80,000 per year, to take the job, court records show.

He was on the job for just over a month when he was sent home on administrative leave after Pierce Transit learned, “post employment,” about his criminal record, the lawsuit states.

“To summarize, we are conducting a fact-finding inquiry into information that alleges you may not be able to fully perform your duties as procurement manager in the finance division,” Pierce Transit vice president Alberto Lara said in a June 28 letter to Lunsford. “To clarify, we fully understand that you did not falsify any information on your employment application.”

Olson said in an interview his client was convicted “of some break-ins” about 20 years ago, and Lunsford’s driver’s license was suspended about 15 years ago. The crimes were related to drugs and alcohol, the lawyer said.

His client since has cleaned up his act and been a productive member of society, Olson said.

“It’s unfair and illegal,” he said. “They already vetted him. At some point, you’ve got to give people the ability to redeem themselves.”

Olson said his client tried to get his old job with the state back, but it already had been filled, so he’s been unemployed since being fired.

“He’s got the worst of all worlds,” the attorney said.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644

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