The Oregon Military Department is facing a lawsuit accusing the agency of terminating a former worker’s employment after he purportedly came forward with complaints against an upper-level OMD official’s behavior. He is seeking $625,000 in compensation for the mental and financial damage incurred by the department’s alleged retaliation.
The civil dispute is centered around the plaintiff’s firing from the Oregon Military Department’s Office of Emergency Management. The man had recently been promoted to lead the office as its director, but only served in that position for less than a year when OMD officials placed him on administrative leave and subsequently fired him several months later.
State representatives assert that the plaintiff’s role was initially suspended after two workers accused him of unfairly punishing them because they were active members of a union. Oregon’s adjutant general, who has since retired, argued that the plaintiff was fired solely due to those complaints. A representative with the OMD supported that stance, praising the plaintiff’s past military service but agreed that he was not an appropriate match for the position.
However, the lawsuit alleges that officials placed the plaintiff on leave and fired him in retaliation after the man filed a number of complaints in which he allegedly exposed problems of agency-wide sexual harassment, abuse of power and severe mismanagement. The former state worker blamed the affair on the state’s lack of a system to appropriately deter government officials from abusing their roles, also citing systemic dysfunction in the way the OMD trains employees and responds to complaints.
The OMD faces several other legal challenges, including one from its former deputy director. That official stepped down from his post following claims that he interacted with a female employee in a sexually inappropriate manor. The former deputy director eventually filed a tort claim notice in which he asserted that the OMD wrongfully shared the details of the woman’s sexual harassment complaints with lawmakers, infringing on his civil rights.
Oregon’s civil court system is a crucial part of maintaining justice for any individual, business, government agency or other entity based in the state, allowing litigants to make their cases before a neutral judge or jury.
Source: Statesman Journal, Ex-worker files whistleblower lawsuit against Oregon Department” Queenie Wong, Nov. 15, 2013