Kauai County, Hawaii Settles Racial Harassment Complaint

September 11, 2012

Kauai County, Hawaii will pay $120,000 to settle a federal case by a former assistant prosecuting attorney who claimed she was subjected to racial harassment because she’s white, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced .

Shannon Weigel, 27, filed a discrimination complaint in 2010, claiming the county’s top prosecutor, Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, harassed her for being white. Weigel was an assistant prosecuting attorney on Kauai from 2009 to 2010.

Iseri-Carvalho continually made disparaging comments that Weigel needed to assimilate to the local culture and told her to dump her white boyfriend, who moved to the island with her, in favor of a local man, Weigel claimed.

“She told me and another attorney, a white female from the mainland, that we need to start dating local boys because it will look better that we’re not dating white boys,” Weigel said from Denver, where she now lives.

The agency found reasonable cause to believe the county violated harassment law.

“She would talk about the haole way and that we needed to stop acting that way,” Weigel said, using the Hawaiian term for a white person.

The elected prosecuting attorney gave Weigel an ultimatum, Weigel said: The boyfriend or the job.

Weigel said the harassment caused enough tension between her and her boyfriend that they broke up and she ended up moving back to the mainland.

Sometimes, she would get anti-white attitudes from defendants, she said, but never expected it to come from her employer.

“Hawaii itself, all the people I met were always so nice and friendly,” she said. “I never had any problems outside the workplace.”

In addition to monetary compensation, the county agreed to establish policies to address discrimination and harassment in the workplace and provide training to all managers and supervisors.

The county settled after careful deliberation and evaluation of the evidence and its options, County Attorney Al Castillo Jr. said in a statement.

The county recognized “a continuing course of conduct” by prosecutor’s office management, he said.

“As such, the risk of financial exposure to Kauai County in light of the overwhelming evidence produced by the investigation made it imperative for us to reach an amicable settlement with not only the claimant, but the EEOC as well,” Castillo said. “We feel that given the seriousness of Ms. Weigel’s complaint and the substantiating evidence that was uncovered during the investigation, that the settlement was fair for all involved.”

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