Ex-employee sues state, alleges problems at Western State Hospital

A man who worked at Western State Hospital in Lakewood for five months last year has sued the state, contending his superiors retaliated against him after he reported alleged abuses at the hospital, including patients being served expired food.

James Beck, lawyer for plaintiff Michael Quayle, filed the lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court last week.

Quayle, who was fired from his job at the mental health hospital in November, seeks an undisclosed dollar amount for lost wages and other damages.

He also has asked to be rehired and for a special investigator to be appointed to look into what his lawsuit calls “systemic problems” at the hospital.

Quayle’s attorney, of the law firm Gordon Thomas Honeywell, occasionally represents The News Tribune.

“Western State Hospital retaliated against plaintiff in a number of ways, including, but not limited to, creating a hostile work environment, refusing to implement policies and ultimately terminating plaintiff,” his lawsuit contends.

Quayle said he also was subject to discrimination because of his sexual orientation, including being called “a faggot” by a co-worker.

John Wiley is a spokesman for the Department of Social and Health Services, which runs the hospital.

He said he could not comment on the specifics of Quayle’s claims but said the agency generally supports people of all sexual orientations and requires employees to report abuses they see.

“No team member would be disciplined for their orientation or for reporting service delivery issues,” Wiley said. “In fact, team members can be disciplined for failing to report service delivery issues or failure to comply with nondiscrimination policies.

“It is always possible some individual could act outside our rules; however, we have a strong investigatory process with strong nonretaliation protections for reporters to protect against this.”

Wiley confirmed Quayle worked at Western State from June to November 2014 and was paid an annual salary of nearly $46,000 to help coordinate care for developmentally disabled patients.

Quayle contends that not long after beginning work at the hospital he heard that patients were being served meat that was beyond its expiration date or “poorly stored.”

He said he later observed “that Western State Hospital had expired food to serve to patients.”

His lawsuit includes a photograph of a package of chicken gizzards and hearts with a sell-by date of Sept. 9, 2013. Quayle contends the package was part of the food intended to be served to patients.