A Linfield University professor fired in April after calling attention to reports of sexual harassment by university trustees is suing the private McMinnville school for more than $4 million.
Attorneys for Daniel Pollack-Pelzner filed the lawsuit Monday, July 12, in Multnomah County Circuit Court, claiming the university violated Pollack-Pelzner's rights as a workplace whistleblower and retaliated against him. The 32-page complaint claims Pollack-Pelzner "engaged in legally protected activity when he took Linfield trustees and administrators to task for not adequately addressing campus safety issues."
University officials said Monday, July 12, that the lawsuit was "disappointing, but comes as no surprise."
"Linfield's priority is, and will remain, the safety and well-being of its students," Scott Nelson, university associate vice president for strategic communications said in a statement. "It is disappointing, but comes as no surprise that former professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner has filed this lawsuit. We believe his claims are without merit and we will not let them be a distraction from the important work underway at the university."
No court date has been set for the case.
Linfield has about 1,500 students and nearly 120 faculty. Its School of Nursing operates a Portland campus at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital.
Pollack-Pelzner's firing led to an investigation by the American Association of University Professors and student petitions demanding his reinstatement.
The university fired Pollack-Pelzner April 27, saying he "engaged in conduct that is harmful to the university." It also claimed he spread false statements about the university, employees and the trustees.
Pollack-Pelzner's lawsuit argues that the university violated Oregon's Workplace Fairness Act, "which prohibits employers from restricting employees' ability to communicate about sexual harassment and assault."
"This is a classic case of shoot the messenger," Portland attorney Dana Sullivan said in a news release announcing the lawsuit. "Daniel championed the concerns of students and faculty by repeatedly asking leadership for policy changes and trainings to keep Linfield safe. He also urged the most powerful people on campus to take accountability for their own conduct. He was demonized for taking a stand and speaking up."
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