Women and Justice: Court: Oregon Court of Appeals

Domestic Case Law

Motsinger v. Lithia Rose-Ft, Inc. Oregon Court of Appeals (2007)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Plaintiff, who was employed for fourteen months by defendant as a part-time receptionist, alleged that she was subjected to repeated acts of sexual harassment by several male employees. Plaintiff also alleged that her employment was terminated in part as retaliation for reporting this sexual harassment to management. Plaintiff brought a wrongful termination action against the employer, alleging claims of sexual harassment under Or. Rev. Stat. § 659A.030(1)(a), retaliation under Or. Rev. Stat. § 659A.030(1)(f), wrongful discharge, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court denied defendant's petition to abate the proceeding pending arbitration, ruling that the arbitration clause contained in plaintiff's employment contract with defendant was unenforceable because it constituted an unconscionable contract of adhesion. The appellate court found that the employee did not show that the contract formation carried indicia of procedural and substantive unconscionability other than an unequal bargaining power. Consequently, the Court of Appeals of Oregon reversed and remanded the case.



Ettner v. City of Medford Oregon Court of Appeals (2001)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Although plaintiff had satisfactorily completed her firefighter-training year and had been highly recommended for advancement, she was found to have allegedly failed five final task tests and her employment was terminated shortly thereafter. Plaintiff filed an action against defendant City of Medford for unlawful employment practice alleging she was unlawfully discharged as a firefighter on the bases of gender and of perceived impairment in violation of ORS 659.030 which provides, in pertinent part, “(1) It is an unlawful employment practice: (a) For an employer, because of an individual's . . . sex, . . . to . . . discharge from employment such individual. However, discrimination is not an unlawful employment practice if such discrimination results from a bona fide occupational requirement reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the employer's business.” Plaintiff was required to prove only that she was treated less favorably than male candidates because of sex, which is sufficient to establish a discriminatory motive. The Circuit Court found for the employee on the gender discrimination claim, and the appellate court affirmed. Here, the grading was unfair to plaintiff because it was highly subjective and allowed for too much internal bias. Furthermore, because two of the evaluators were officers who had previously expressed reservations regarding a gender-integrated department on behalf of other firefighters, it was a permissible inference that those evaluators attempted to give effect to the line firefighters' animus by giving plaintiff lower scores than she deserved. These testing problems existed within a context, revealing a general animosity toward female firefighters as firemen had told plaintiff that they were having problems with their wives over the hiring of a woman and had expressed concerns about plaintiff’s ability to ably assist the other firefighters during a fire despite plaintiff’s proven physical ability. Finally, plaintiff's success as a firefighter before and after her experience in Medford provided circumstantial evidence of discriminatory treatment. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the judgment, concluding that plaintiff satisfied her burden in proving that gender was a substantial and impermissible factor in the city's decision to discharge her.



A.L.P. Inc. v. Bureau of Labor & Indus. Oregon Court of Appeals (1999)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Here, petitioner, a male employer, sought review of a final order of the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, which found petitioner had created an intimidating, hostile and offensive working environment based on respondent’s gender, in violation of Or. Rev. Stat. § 659.030(1), which provides, “(1) [i]t is an unlawful employment practice: (B) [f]or an employer, because of an individual's . . .  sex . . . to discriminate against such individual in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment.”  The statute does not require that the unlawful employment practice be “sexual” in nature to be actionable.  It requires only that the practice have occurred “because of” the employee’s sex.  Furthermore, no independent corroboration of a complaining witness is required to establish an unlawful employment practice claim. Petitioner, the owner of a store selling adult toys and gifts, only referred to his employee, respondent Theresa Getman, using derogatory terms.  Petitioner also frequently passed derogatory comments on the appearance of female customers and directed a number of sexually inappropriate remarks towards Getman.  Additionally, petitioner frequently threatened Getman that he was going to “bitch slap” her and on several occasions slapped Getman on the top of her head and across her face.  Throughout the duration of the employment, Getman was physically ill. She had a stomach ache and found herself unable to sleep because of the stress.  The appellate court affirmed the finding that respondent was the victim of gender discrimination in her employment, as there was substantial evidence to support the finding that all of petitioner’s offensive conduct had occurred because respondent was a woman.



Werth v. Empl. Dep't. Oregon Court of Appeals (2010)

Sexual harassment

Here, claimant sought judicial review of an order of the Employment Appeals Board that denied her claim for unemployment insurance benefits after finding that claimant failed to establish that her belief that further stalking by a fellow employee would occur was reasonable. Claimant argued that the Appeals Board erred in concluding that she quit her job without good cause after being stalked by a co-worker for several months. Under ORS 657.176(12), an individual could not be disqualified from receiving benefits under subsection (2)(c) if: (a) [t]he individual is a victim, or is the parent or guardian of a minor child who is a victim, of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault; (b) [t]he individual leaves work . . . to protect the individual or the minor child from further domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault that the individual reasonably believes will occur at the workplace or elsewhere.” The Court of Appeals of Oregon reversed and remanded for further proceedings, finding that claimant’s belief that further stalking would occur was reasonable, in light of her stalker ignoring warnings from the police to leave claimant alone, disregarding some of the restrictions that employer instituted after the first temporary stalking protective order (SPO) was issued and in light of his conduct escalating and becoming increasingly alarming.



State ex rel. Juvenile Dep't. v. Gohranson (In re Gohranson) Oregon Court of Appeals (1996)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Sexual violence and rape

Here, appellants, the State and the children, sought review of a judgment from the circuit court, which found in favor of respondents, a mother and father, in the State’s action to terminate their parental rights. The Court of Appeals of Oregon reversed and remanded with instructions to enter judgment terminating the parental rights of father and mother. With reference to ORS 419B.504, the Court of Appeals of Oregon terminated the father’s parental rights with regard to his own daughter, because he was convicted for sexually abusing the mother’s daughter from previous marriage and had sexually abused his own daughter. In addition, integration of the children into his home was unlikely in the foreseeable future. In keeping with ORS 419B.504, the Court of Appeals of Oregon terminated the mother’s parental rights, because the children were subjected to severe sexual abuse while in her care, but she had neither recognized the signs of sexual abuse nor protected them. Furthermore, the evidence also demonstrated that mother would not be able to adjust her behavior to protect the children in the future, most importantly because she continuously denied the possibility that father subjected the children to sexual abuse.