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Canyon County settles jail nurse sex discrimination lawsuit

Canyon County settles jail nurse sex discrimination lawsuit

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BOISE (AP) — County officials in Idaho have agreed to pay $350,000 to four former jail nurses to settle a lawsuit alleging they were discriminated against because they are women.

The women — Tracy Johnson, Toni Krieter, Rene Whitneck and Linda Ellis — were four of the five nurses working at the Canyon County Jail when they sued in U.S. District Court in 2019. The fifth nurse, a man, was paid more than all of them, according to the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit against Canyon County, county officials and jail healthcare contractor VitalCore Health Strategies LLC, the women said they were denied equal compensation based on their sex even though they had similar or more experience than their male counterpart and performed essentially the same jobs.

The male nurse had six years of experience and was making more than $31 an hour, according to the court document. The women were all making around $23 and $24 an hour, even though two of them had 15 years of experience and one of them had 20 years of experience.

Canyon County denied the allegations and asked a judge to reject the lawsuit, contending in part that the women failed to follow county policy in reporting discrimination.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill last year dismissed the women's claims against Canyon County Commissioners Leslie Van Beek, Tom Dale and Pam White and Sheriff Kieran Donahue.

The women also agreed with VitalCore Health Strategies LLC that the claims against the company should be dismissed. Such agreements are generally made after two parties to a lawsuit reach a confidential settlement.

Winmill said the claims against Canyon County could go forward, however, and a trial was set for this September. But earlier this month, the women and the county agreed to a settlement to end the case.

The settlement agreement wasn't filed in the court documents but was obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

In the agreement, Canyon County denied any wrongdoing but agreed to pay the women $350,000 to settle the claims, with each side handling its own attorney fees and court costs. The agreement also requires the women and the county to keep the agreement and details about the case mostly confidential, with a few exceptions.

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