Oregon Chief Seeks $5 Million Over Disability Discrimination and Constructive Termination

An Oregon division chief who retired last year has filed a $5 million suit claiming he was discriminated against and constructively terminated due to his having Parkinson’s Disease. Michael Carlsen was a division chief for the Clackamas Fire District #1.

Chief Carlsen served as Division Chief for the Support Services Division, but claims that after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease he was discriminated against, threatened with demotion to battalion chief, had his job duties taken away, and reassigned to a “dead-end” position as Emergency Manager.  

At the center of the suit was a complaint filed by a female employee against Chief Carlsen after he denied her request to work from home following her return from maternity leave. The complaint was investigated and found to be unfounded. Chief Carlsen claims the false allegations and the treatment he received by his superiors exacerbated his Parkinson’s, led to a threatened demotion that after reconsideration was changed to a reassignment, and ultimately led to his decision to retire.

The suit alleges disability discrimination; failure to accommodate a disability; failure to engage in a good faith interactive process; whistleblower violation (based on complaints he made about the way he was being treated); hostile work environment; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and wrongful termination/constructive discharge, all under Oregon state law. The complaint was filed in Clackamas County Circuit Court and names the fire district, the fire chief and the district’s chief financial officer as defendants.

Here is a copy of the 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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