Hispanic ex-employee calls Washington County workplace hostile
A former employee has alleged that Washington County fostered a hostile work environment while she worked in the environmental health program.
Glenda Quezada, in a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Nov. 13, in Washington County Circuit Court, seeks $350,000 in compensatory damages in addition to actual economic losses and attorney fees. She is represented by the Portland firm of Stutheit Kalin.
She also has filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, which enforces state civil rights laws. She said the bureau allowed her to proceed with a separate lawsuit.
She served notice to the county of her potential claims on March 21.
She names in her lawsuit two co-workers — one who has since been promoted — and a supervisor, either for making racially offensive remarks or failing to stop them.
She was hired in July 2018 as a communications and education specialist in environmental health, one of the programs under public health, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. She is bilingual, and she said one of her main tasks was to work with Hispanic business owners to ensure compliance with health regulations.
Quezada said in her lawsuit that one co-worker cursed at her for turning on the lights early in the morning, and that this person and another co-worker repeatedly made offensive remarks about her ethnicity and demeaning her. She said one of the incidents occurred while they were conducting inspections at the 2018 Oregon International Air Show in Hillsboro.
When she attempted to bring the offensive remarks to the attention of her supervisor in environmental health, she said, he dismissed them.
She also quoted one supervisor, who is unnamed in the complaint, speaking off the cuff. "He stated that when Chinese people speak, they sound aggressive and like barking dogs, or something to that effect," she wrote.
After she met with a human resources analyst — human resources is in a different county department — Quezada said she was subjected to retaliation within her program.
She requested a copy of the human resources report, but was told there was no formal investigation.
She said she resigned her job March 1, but rescinded the resignation after she was offered a transfer to another department, something she could not do if she were no longer employed. But she said the other job paid less, and she resigned again May 20 after taking medical leave.
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