Aug 17, 2022 - News

Ex-worker lawsuit says Kreidler's office fired her for wanting to work remotely

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler speaks
Washington insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler testifying at a Congressional committee hearing. Photo: Douglas Graham/Roll Call/Getty Images

A former employee has sued the Office of Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler claiming she was wrongfully fired after the state agency stopped letting her work remotely due to her "heightened risks of complication from COVID-19 infection."

Why it matters: Carolyn Cronin's discrimination lawsuit is the latest in a bevy of claims leveled at the office of Washington's embattled insurance commissioner.

The latest: The 10-page complaint filed in King County Superior Court last Friday describes Cronin as an administrative assistant who worked in the office for 20 years.

  • Cronin also suffers from the lung condition emphysema and a diagnosed anxiety disorder related to her fears of contracting COVID-19 — both of which are considered protected disabilities under Washington law, per the suit.

Driving the news: Cronin's suit says after a year and a half of allowing employees to work remotely amid the pandemic, the agency ordered them to return to in-person work, but initially let her keep working remotely.

  • Three months later, after Cronin asked for her remote work allowance to be extended, the office denied her request, forced her to go on three months of unpaid leave and ultimately firing her in April, the suit says.

What they're saying: Cronin's doctor advised she not "return to in-person work unless all employees were vaccinated and wore a mask in the office, but that she could resume working remotely," the lawsuit states.

  • "OIC was unwilling to accommodate Ms. Cronin's disability and terminated her employment."

The other side: A spokesperson for Kreidler's office confirmed in an email to Axios Tuesday that Cronin worked for the office, adding "we do not discuss personnel issues or pending litigation, so I'm afraid we are unable to provide any further comment."

Details: Cronin's suit cites as a cause of action the state agency's violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination, contending the office discriminated against her due to her underlying health condition.

Background: Kreidler, the longest-serving statewide elected official in Washington, has been under fire since March, when public radio station Northwest News Network broke the story that an aide had lodged a formal complaint claiming he bullied and antagonized staff and repeatedly used slurs and other offensive language.

  • After the radio station later reported Kreidler fired the aide who made the complaint, the governor joined a chorus of legislative leaders calling on Kreidler to resign.
  • In the second year of his latest four-year term, Kreidler has said he has no plans to step down.

Of note: Cronin's complaint does not specifically name Kriedler as a defendant and cites only the state agency.

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