Oregon Volunteer Again Seeks $8.35 Million for Sexual Harassment

A former Oregon volunteer firefighter who filed and later dismissed a sexual harassment, whistleblower, and wrongful termination suit in 2021, has filed a virtually identical suit against the same parties. Amy Lenz filed suit yesterday 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.

The suit mirrors the suit Lenz filed in 2021 that sought $8.35 million in damages. Here is more on the original filing. The 2021 suit was dismissed without prejudice by agreement of the parties on August 31, 2023.

The new complaint does not mention the previous suit, but offers the following obscure reference:

  • On September 29, 2021, Plaintiff presented Defendant Knappa with a formal Oregon Tort Claims Notice to pursuant to ORS 30.275. Plaintiff’s Notice was timely made, as are her claims, pursuant to House Bill 4212 and Senate Bill 813, and agreement by the Parties.

The House and Senate bills pertain to the suspension of the normal statues of limitations due to the COVID pandemic. It would appear that the August 31, 2023 dismissal and the new filing are part of an agreed upon course of action by Lenz and the defendants. The court file indicates that Circuit Court Judge Dawn M. McIntosh had previously scheduled the case for trial on September 12, 2023, but the parties were not prepared to move forward. On August 14, 2023, Judge McIntosh denied a request to postpone the trial. That in turn led to the dismissal.

Lenz claims she was harassed repeatedly by a supervisor; denied a promotion to lieutenant; disciplined in retaliation for complaining about harassment and several safety violations; and ultimately wrongfully terminated in 2019. The second complaint seeks the same $8.35 million in damages as the original complaint.

Here are the relevant court documents, including the Order Denying a Motion to Postpone Trial, the Dismissal, and the new complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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