First BOLI complaint against Dundee Fire Chief John Stock dismissed
Nearly a year after it was filed, a sexual harassment and discrimination complaint made by a Dundee firefighter against her former boss — Fire Chief John Stock — has been dismissed by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry.
BOLI cited the statute of limitations on such cases as the reason for the complaint's dismissal, despite what it called "substantial evidence" of Stock's misdeeds and the city of Dundee's failure to address them.
The complainant, who will remain anonymous in this story for privacy purposes, alleged in a BOLI complaint filed in December 2019 that Stock refused to pay firefighters overtime, engaged in gender discrimination and sexual harassment against her, and interfered with her ability to receive medical treatment and financial compensation for an injury suffered on the job. She alleges Stock inappropriately touched her, that she was subject to multiple instances of derogatory comments, and that her job security was held over her by superiors if she were to go forward with her allegations.
BOLI's investigation found similar allegations from other female firefighters that corroborated the complainant's allegations.
"The division has spoken to two other alleged victims of Chief Stock's sexual harassment," the dismissal memo, prepared by investigator Brittney Boggs, read. "One witness described conduct which mirrored the conduct described by complainant. Another victim was too afraid to speak to the division, but confirmed similar allegations against Chief Stock. Additionally, the division spoke to another witness who has worked at the fire station for over a decade, who confirmed other instances of egregious behavior by Chief Stock.
"Thus the division finds that complainant was the victim of severe and pervasive sexual harassment perpetrated by Chief Stock. Additionally, the evidence supports that Chief Stock's behavior was known to the fire station and the city going back years, to when Chief Stock was removed from the police department for similar behavior. It is clear that the city and the city manager had an obligation to (the) complainant and other female firefighters with regards to the predatory behavior by Chief Stock, and that the city failed to take corrective action."
Despite overwhelming evidence, the complaint was dismissed because the alleged events happened outside the statute of limitations for such crimes. Section 5 of House Bill 726 — which passed in 2019 — extends the limitations on filing a complaint under Oregon statutes to no later than five years after the occurrence, but the five-year extension window is not retroactive and therefore does not cover the specific incidents involving Stock.
"Although the record indicates that there is substantial evidence that complainant was sexually harassed and that the city failed to take proper and immediate corrective action, the division must dismiss this case as it is untimely," Boggs wrote.
Another BOLI complaint by a different female firefighter against Stock is currently under investigation. Given the roughly 10-month timeline of the first complaint's processing, a decision could come in early March or earlier. It is not clear whether this complainant's accusations fall inside the statute of limitations.
In her complaint, the firefighter alleges she experienced discrimination and harassment from Stock as well as other male employees. She claims fire department and city officials were aware of Stock's behavior and did nothing to mitigate these actions or protect her.
She alleges Stock invited her to his beach house on several occasions, touched her buttocks on two occasions when she was standing on the side of a fire engine and while she was in the station kitchen, and asked about her sexual habits.
The complaint also lists other alleged incidents of inappropriate touching without the firefighter's consent, including shoulder massages, back-rubbing and touching inside the leg near the firefighter's genitals. She says firefighters other than Stock sexually harassed and demeaned her as well.
"It was pretty horrendous behavior toward women in general," the second complainant's lawyer, Julie Reading, said in May. "The atmosphere involved a lot of inappropriate sexual commentary, much of it directed toward the women working for him as volunteers or full-time employees. A lot of these women had a lot of fear of him even when it had been years since these incidents. Some were in other states and were afraid that he'd track them down, find them and hurt them."
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