Ettner v. City of Medford

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.

Year 

2001

Avon Center work product 

ID 

571