State facility facing allegations of sexual harassment, retaliation

LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- A Pierce County nurse claims Western State Hospital routinely put him and other patients at risk, and he believes the treatment he received was retaliation for reporting sexual harassment.

Working at Western State Hospital can be very dangerous, which registered nurse Chris Boyd knows first hand.

"I was being left on a ward alone with a lot of violent patients," Boyd said.

In any given year, there are hundreds of reports of assaults by patients at the hospital, and Boyd says the work got even more dangerous after he reported being sexually harassed by a female supervisor.

"She would make comments about my backside, being eye candy and stuff," he said.

Boyd told supervisors via email that he was repeatedly being left alone on wards with patients. Just a a week and a half after that email, a patient named Elliott Goodin was arrested for allegedly killing another patient on Boyd's ward while he was working alone.

"The retaliation got so bad at a certain point that it cost the life of a patient that was real special to me," he said.

Boyd sued, claiming retaliation. A jury agreed with him and awarded $173,000.

Boyd's sexual harassment case wasn't the first at the facility, either. In 2003, a judge ordered a special master to review sexual harassment, retaliation and workplace violence training at the hospital.

Attorney James Beck fears Boyd's case proves hospital officials haven't learned their lesson.

"The patients are the ones that need the attention," he said. "And if there's dysfunction within the hospital, that's a problem."

The hospital recently hired a new CEO, who said he can't reasonably respond to any problems that might have happened in the past. But he did say all of these issues are a priority for the future.

"Anything that risks the safety of our patients and our staff are high on the list for me," said CEO Ron Adler.

As positive as Adler is, Boyd is back on the job at Western and said he's already worried about new retaliation.