Oregon Volunteer Seeks $8.35 Million for Sexual Harassment

A female Oregon firefighter who was terminated from her volunteer fire department in 2019 has filed suit alleging sexual harassment, retaliation, and an assortment of related claims. Amy Lenz filed suit in Clatsop County Circuit Court against the Knappa Fire District, former Fire Chief Paul Olheiser, his successor Fire Chief Kurt Donaldson, and Fire District Chairwoman Susan Stunkard.

Lenz, who identifies herself as an EMS Officer and firefighter, claims that she was harassed daily by a supervisor, Scott Wheldon. When she reported the harassment to Chief Olheiser, he did little to address the behavior. She claims she was denied promotion to lieutenant as well as training opportunities in retaliation for her complaints.

After years of reporting Wheldon’s behavior to the chief and it having no effect, Linz brought the matter to the fire district board. After a tumultuous executive session where Chief Olheiser threatened to punish her, proclaiming “I’m the Chief, I can do what I want,” she was disciplined and prohibited from responding to “any conflagrations during fire season.” Several months later after the appointment of Chief Donaldson, she was terminated.

The 13-count suit seeks $8,350,000 in damages under state law claims of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation, whistleblower violations, aiding and abetting, and wrongful termination. 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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