Ore. AG settles discrimination claims with fire department

Bryan Cohen Mar. 26, 2012, 1:21pm


SALEM, Ore. (Legal Newsline) - Oregon Attorney General John Kroger announced a settlement on Wednesday with the city of Salem and the Salem Fire Department to resolve allegations of discrimination against Oregon National Guard members.

Kroger's Civil Rights Unit received complaints from service members who were former or current employees of the SFD and the city of Salem. The complaints alleged systematic retaliation or discrimination against service members exercising their employment rights under state law and the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act to participate in military deployments and trainings.

The alleged retaliatory actions included negative performance reviews, refusing to cooperate with National Guard scheduling and termination during probationary service.

In an interrelated but separate action, Mitra Law Group, a Portland-based employment law firm, filed lawsuits in federal court on behalf of two National Guardsmen who were allegedly fired by SFD for asking for time off to participate in possible deployments and military drills.

Kroger's office worked closely with the Mitra Law Group and the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs to reach a three year settlement agreement with the SFD and the city of Salem.

Under the terms of the agreement, the city and SFD must make major reforms to their treatment of service members that will be closely monitored by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan.

SFD and Salem must also immediately provide a copy of any discrimination or retaliation reports against members of the armed forces to Kroger's office and Hogan.

If SFD or the city fail to comply with the agreement, Hogan will retain the authority to create a binding resolution that could include monetary damages, contempt, injunctive relief, attorneys fees and other costs. The agreement does not limit the ability of service members to enforce their rights separately from Wednesday's agreement.

Kroger's office also collaborated with Mitra Law Group to negotiate economic damages of behalf of the two plaintiffs, in addition to attorney fees. The terms of the agreement will be set forth in a separate settlement.

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