Rick is the former chair of Ryan Swanson’s Employment Rights, Benefits and Labor Group. As a trial lawyer, a majority of his litigation practice is employment-law related, often centered on discrimination or harassment, employment agreements, workplace injuries and safety. The remainder is commercial litigation, both trial and appellate, with considerable experience in product liability and asbestos litigation and auto dealer law.
Rick also counsels clients who wish to avoid litigation. He counsels employers through workplace conflicts, and conducts training seminars for human resources personnel and diversity training programs for supervisors and other management personnel. He counsels business owners and executives who are faced with employment problems or contemplating employment agreements.
Rick maintains a growing mediation practice, and is available to serve as a neutral arbitrator or mediator in all types of disputes. His experience representing both plaintiffs and defendants in employment litigation makes him particularly effective as a mediator. Rick completed Cornell University’s Employment Law Mediator Training Program in June 2003.
Rick has successfully represented both employers and employees in courts throughout the state of Washington. He has taken numerous cases to trial, both jury and nonjury, and has obtained verdicts for both defendants and plaintiffs. Rick believes his experience on both sides of employment disputes has given him a more thorough understanding of the dynamics of employment litigation and enabled him to achieve more positive results in an efficient manner. Selected reported appellate cases include:
- Lords v. Northern Automotive, 75 Wn. App. 589, 881 P.2d 256 (1994). Rick represented the defendant employer Northern Automotive Corporation, both in the two-week jury trial and on appeal, in this employment discrimination case. Plaintiff Mr. Lords, a store manager discharged in a reduction-in-force, sought damages for age discrimination, handicap discrimination, negligent infliction of emotional distress, outrage, and breach of express and implied contract. The outrage and breach of contract claims were dismissed on summary judgment. At trial, the jury entered a verdict in favor of the employer on the age discrimination claim, and in favor of the plaintiff on the handicap discrimination claim and for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The appellate court affirmed the summary judgments, reversed the judgment for plaintiff on negligent infliction of emotional distress and the award of emotional distress damages, but affirmed the judgment for handicap discrimination, holding that the trial court’s evidentiary error was harmless.
- Hodge v. Development Services, 65 Wn. App. 576, 828 P.2d 1175 (1992). Rick represented the defendant employer in this successful appeal applying contract principles to CR 68 offers of judgment and establishing that attorneys’ fees awarded under the Washington Law Against Discrimination are included in costs as described in an offer of judgment.
- Venables v. Seattle-First Nat’l Bank, 60 Wn. App. 941, 808 P.2d 769 (1991). Successfully defended the defendant bank’s allocation of its trustee fees and costs to principal and income pursuant to statute and obtained an award of attorneys’ fees in favor of the bank.
Additional selected cases of interest:
- Hart v. SSA Marine, Inc., et al, United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, No. 08-05248 RBL. Rick represented the defendant stevedoring company against claims of sexual harassment and discriminatory discharge. The Court granted SSA Marine, Inc.’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed plaintiff’s claims, concluding that plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that SSA’s articulated reason for discharging her was a pretext for a discriminatory motive.
- Weaver v. KPLZ, Inc., et al., King County Superior Court, No. 93-2-31639-9. Rick represented the plaintiff employee in a disability discrimination action against radio stations KPLZ and KVI. Ms. Weaver suffered from bipolar disorder (manic depression), a mental disability. After a six-week jury trial, succeeded in obtaining a judgment of approximately $1.3 million.
- Senn v. Snohomish County, United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, No. C96-1815C. Rick represented the plaintiff employee in a disability discrimination action against his employer, Snohomish County. Mr. Senn suffered from Crohn’s disease, a disability of the digestive tract. Obtained a settlement (amount confidential) shortly prior to trial.
Publications & Speaking Engagements
Rick speaks regularly on disability discrimination, sexual harassment and other employment issues, including Continuing Legal Education seminars and industry events.
- Speaker, Ryan Swanson’s Annual Employment Law Update (1988-present)
- Taking Leave: Paid Sick & Safe Leave Throughout Washington State (Co-presenter; 2017)
- Discrimination and Harassment: How to Avoid Trouble (2016)
- FMLA Leave and Obligations (2013)
- Disability Accommodation: Webinar [22 minutes] (2012), Article (2013)
- Author, DOL’S Overtime Exemption Salary Rule Invalidated by Federal Court (2017)
- Author, Employment Law Update: Obama’s Overtime Exemption Salary Rule Blocked Ahead of Implementation (2016)
- Author, Employers: A Few Tips to Help You Remain Union-Free (2016)
- Speaker, “Flat Rate Technicians: Paid Rest Breaks,” Washington State Auto Dealers Association (2015)
- Co-Author, City of Seattle Sick/Safe Leave Ordinance – An Overview
- Author, Washington Law Against Discrimination Requires Employers to Reasonably Accommodate Religious Beliefs
- Speaker, “Disability Accommodation: A Practical Approach,” Washington State Auto Dealers Association (2013)
- Past Contributor, Washington Lawyers Practice Manual, Employment Discrimination
- Contributor, Puget Sound Auto Dealers Association Dealer Magazine
Honors & Awards
- Martindale Hubbell AV® Preeminent 5.0 out of 5
Professional & Community Activities
- Member, Labor and Employment Law Section of the King County Bar Association
- Washington State Bar Association
- American Bar Association
- Arbitrator, King County Arbitration