The Washington Attorney General’s Office filed a civil rights lawsuit against Thelbert “Thadd” Lawson Jr. and the Wenatchee nonprofit he founded to serve veterans, saying they discriminated against and sexually harassed at least a dozen women who worked at its two thrift stores.
Operation Veterans Assistance & Humanitarian Aid operates thrift stores at 1219 N. Wenatchee Ave. in Wenatchee and at 908 N. Colorado St. in Kennewick.
The suit was filed Feb. 8 in Chelan County Superior Court, following an investigation by Wing Luke Civil Rights Division, which received the case from the Washington State Human Rights Commission after an employee filed a complaint against Lawson.
It asked the court to enforce the Washington Law Against Discrimination by banning Lawson from working at Operation Veterans Assistance & Humanitarian Aid, financial restitution for victims and legal costs.
The AG’s office is asking individuals with information about the case or who saw or experienced discrimination to contact the Wing Luke Civil Rights Division, 833-660-4877, ext. 6, or the AG’s office, VeteransWarehouse@atg.wa.gov.
“My team will use all the tools we have to stop workplace harassment and discrimination,” said Bob Ferguson, Washington’s attorney general. “Everyone deserves a safe work environment free from abuse.”
Lawson declined to comment on the allegations, saying he hadn’t received a copy of the lawsuit or hired an attorney.
Lawson had a lengthy criminal history before he and his wife, Karen Monroe, launched Veterans Thrift in 2013 in Wenatchee. Its stated mission is to serve homeless veterans and their families.
The Kennewick store opened in early 2021 in the former Sports Authority building next to Lowe’s Home Improvement. The 40,000-square-foot store had been empty for more than five years. Veterans Thrift signed a seven-year lease.
Lawson shared his background, including his criminal history, at the time the store opened. He blamed untreated PTSD and a head injury from his Army service for his post-military crimes.
He was convicted in 1992 in Chelan County Superior Court for hiring someone in a failed attempt to murder his then-wife. He served more than 16 years of an 18-year sentence.
Lawson said he reset behind bars. In 2006, while serving at the Monroe Correctional Complex, he was named the incarcerated veteran of the year by Vietnam Veterans of America. The Everett Herald wrote about the ceremony at the time.
The nonprofit was supposed to carry out his new mission.
But trouble piled up. A post-prison conviction in Chelan County District Court was reversed in 2016. Lawson said he accepted a plea bargain deal for fourth-degree assault to put the incident behind him.
In July 2021, he was convicted by a jury on a count of assault for an incident involving harassment of at least two individuals at the Wenatchee store, according to the AG’s office. The nonprofit posted his appeal bond, which allowed him to stay out of jail.
He continued to work at the thrift stores.
The civil rights case claims Lawson and Operation Veterans Assistance subjected employees to “pervasive, ongoing sexual harassment, including offensive and unwanted touching, sexually charged remarks and inappropriate requests.”
Specifically, the case accuses him of touching female employees without permission, leading female employees into private areas, making sexually explicit comments, requesting sex, asking women to watch pornography with him and similar actions.
The suit alleges he commented on the appearance, size and other aspects of female employees and customers, made overt sexual gestures and commented on employees’ sex lives as part of the larger pattern of inappropriate behavior.
The conduct occurred at both stores, it said.
According to the lawsuit, several employees reported Lawson’s conduct to his wife, Monroe, the nonprofit’s president, and to other managers and supervisors. The organization took no action to investigate or correct the situation, according to the suit.
The charges maintain he harassed at least 10 thrift store employees and members of the public.
To read the full complaint, go to: bit.ly/LawsonLawsuit.
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