Oregon Firefighters Allege Discrimination and Retaliation

Three firefighters with the City of Hillsboro, Oregon, have filed suit claiming they have been the victims of discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation. Anne Raven, Miguel Bautista and Paul Harvey filed a 56-page, 227-paragraph complaint in Washington County Circuit Court last month.

The suit alleges gender discrimination, race discrimination, age discrimination, disability discrimination, hostile work environment based upon gender, race, age and disability, and retaliation. Each of the plaintiffs are alleging entirely separate claims.

Raven, a firefighter with the department since 2015, was previously a captain with the Philadelphia Fire Department. She claims she was repeatedly passed over for promotion to be a chief officer, wrongfully disciplined, and retaliated against on account of her gender. She also claims that during the height of the COVID epidemic she was denied a reasonable accommodation for a disability in that she was not allowed to work from home.

Bautista, a deputy fire marshal hired by Hillsboro in 2016, claims he was passed over for a promotion to be a chief officer on account of his Hispanic ancestry, and retaliated against for having filed a wage and hour complaint with the state. Bautista and Raven claim less qualified white males received the promotions they deserved.

Harvey, a 57-year-old firefighter who has been with the department since 2000, claims he was targeted and denied certain accommodations on account of his age and a workers comp related disability. He also contends that he was retaliated against for whistleblowing about illegal behavior within the department.

Here is a brief excerpt from the introductory paragraphs of the complaint:

  • The City of Hillsboro prides itself on its diversity, equity, and inclusion, stating that it is an essential part of the delivery of city services.
  • Yet in reality, the City of Hillsboro condones and perpetuates a system mired in sexism, racism, and ableism.
  • From human resources telling a female employee that jokes about “ass play Fridays” were probably about donkeys, to a person of color being denied promotion after promotion in spite of his exemplary qualifications because the department wasn’t “mature enough” to “receive [him] in that role” and having lesser qualified white males obtain those promotions without even applying, the City’s actions bely its stated goals.
  • This is an action for employment discrimination based on sex, race, age, and disability; for a hostile work environment based on sex, race, age, and disability; disability discrimination; and for retaliation based on good faith reporting of violations of law.

The City of Hillsboro released the following statement to the press:

  • Ensuring a respectful workplace is a Citywide priority. All City employees are required to adhere to City policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment, and we hold all City employees accountable to these policies.
  • The City of Hillsboro supports our Fire & Rescue Department’s leadership as they continue to manage the work of Fire & Rescue employees in service of the community.
  • We recognize personnel decisions are never easy when many candidates are in competition for a limited number of positions.
  • Ultimately, the City has a responsibility to recruit, interview, and hire the best candidates based on objective, nondiscriminatory factors, in order to ensure fire protection and emergency services for the entire community.
  • The individuals who are a part of the City of Hillsboro Fire & Rescue Department are outstanding public servants.
  • We are working with legal counsel to contest the lawsuits and present the truth in court.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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