School District Lawsuit
8:41 am
Mon December 24, 2012

Seattle Schools Settles $750,000 Employment Discrimination Case

Seattle Public Schools is paying $750,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a teacher who was fired for refusing to work in a building she says made her sick. 

Former teacher Denise Frisino says when she worked at Nathan Hale High School seven years ago, the mold was so bad that she had a hard time breathing and a terrible cough. "It was to the point where I could not be inside the building for long. It was not a minor thing. It was a severe reaction," she says. 

Frisino says the district discriminated against her disability by refusing to transfer her to another school. District spokeswoman Teresa Wippel disagrees. "We spent a significant amount of money over three years in an attempt to make building modifications that were designed to accommodate Ms. Frisino’s sensitivities. And this included a large remediation project at Nathan Hale High School, where she was working," Wippel says.

But Frisino says the district’s cleaning efforts didn’t fix the problem, and that she still got sick when she went to work.

Wippel says the district decided to settle with Frisino after an appeals court judge said the case could go to trial.  Frisino welcomed that news. "I’m glad it’s over with. I would not want to see this happen to anyone else," she says. "I’m hoping that they continue to improve the schools. Two of the schools I was in, Nathan Hale and Hamilton, have been remodeled, and I’m really thankful for that."

Frisino says since she was fired in 2005, she’s lobbied the state Legislature and Board of Health to improve air and water quality in school buildings.

Seattle Public Schools will cover a third of the $750,000 settlement out-of-pocket. The rest will be covered by insurance.