Sexual harassment complaint filed against rural fire chief
The city of Dundee has joined Newberg as the brunt of a controversy that came about after an employee filed a complaint with the state.
A firefighter — who requested she not to be named for this story — is alleging that Dundee Fire Chief John 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.
In response, City Manager Rob Daykin placed Stock on paid administrative as the city as awaits further action from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI).
The firefighter's complaint, received in December by BOLI's civil rights division, is under investigation and is expected to take several more months to complete. Julie Reading of the Portland-based Tedesco Law Group is representing the firefighter in the proceedings and said her client is eagerly anticipating the results of the investigation.
"We appreciate that there may be public interest in this story," Reading said in an email. "However, my client hopes to have this issue resolved fairly and in a way that respects the privacy of those involved to the extent possible."
Contents of the complaint paint a picture of a hostile work environment for the firefighter as the lone female in the ranks. She said Stock repeatedly undermined her authority and the confidence of other employees when she acted as a commanding officer. He repeatedly admonished her lack of ability to multi-task, she alleged, among other more serious comments and actions over the years since she started full-time with the department in 2015.
"I have suffered a long ongoing pattern of discrimination and harassment from the city of Dundee Fire Chief John Stock and the city has failed to take actions to mitigate these actions and protect me," she wrote in the complaint.
Some allegations within the complaint fall outside the legal statute of limitations but were included to illustrate a pattern of behavior by Stock. Others could be tried in a civil court, if the complainant chooses to go that route.
According to the complaint, Stock repeatedly asked the firefighter to come over to his house and drink with him. She alleges that when she got married, Stock told her that she "had broken his heart." After she was married, the firefighter claims she went to his home and he poured her too much to drink – causing her to black out and later wake up in a bed in Stock's home with him sitting on the bed next to her.
Following that alleged incident, the firefighter said she quit drinking alcohol and requested to speak with Stock privately in March 2019. During that conversation at her home, the firefighter allegedly told Stock that there would be no more one-on-one interactions between them but that family gatherings would be acceptable — and that she no longer drank alcohol.
Stock allegedly relented before opening a six-pack of beer and saying they'd "be back to being drinking buddies in two weeks or less." He also asked if the request came from the firefighter's wife, who Stock allegedly said was "jealous" of the relationship the two shared and "didn't understand."
Responding to a call in January 2019, the firefighter slipped on ice and was injured. She said she notified Stock and he allegedly told her not to file an accident report. When she complained of neck pain the next day at work, he allegedly replied: "If you're not hurting your neck every once in a while in this field, you're not doing your job."
The firefighter said she filled out the accident report anyway, but when she handed it to Stock he told her she wasn't filing the claim and that was the last she saw of the legally required form. Later, after she filed for worker's compensation and went to urgent care on multiple occasions for her injury, Stock allegedly called the firefighter and told her that she "f***ed up big time" by filing a worker's comp claim.
This extended, alleged incidence of negligent and illegal management practices — among other claims regarding a refusal to pay firefighters overtime — is at the heart of the employment-related portion of the dispute. The gender discrimination and sexual harassment allegations add more troubling layers to the issue.
The city of Dundee could not be reached for comment for this story, other than a confirmation by Daykin that Stock was on leave for "an indeterminate period." Daykin said the city has contracted with the city of McMinnville for fire administration support services in the interim and operations chief Amy Hanifan is filling in as fire chief in Stock's absence.
Reading said her client is seeking a fair and efficient resolution to the matter, which she said has caused a physical and emotional toll.
"At this time we are awaiting further action by BOLI and/or the city before determining the next steps." Reading said. "We are hoping that a fair resolution by BOLI and/or the city could avoid extensive legal proceedings."
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