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Oregon lawyer threatens to sue state over #BlackLivesMatter profiling

An attorney for the Oregon Department of Justice has filed a civil rights complaint against the agency, claiming that a 2015 threat assessment focused on him created a hostile work environment and defamed him.

Erious Johnson Jr., the only employee at the Oregon DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, has also filed a tort claim, paving the way for a future lawsuit.

“Mr. Johnson intends to seek lost earning potential, attorney fees, punitive damages, and all remedies applicable,” according to the tort claim notice sent to the Department of Justice.

The action comes after a report was released this week by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s office, detailing how a DOJ investigator conducted a threat assessment against Johnson in September 2015. That investigator profiled Johnson’s social media pages by gathering information on Oregonians who used #BlackLivesMatter online. The investigator went on to confuse a tweet Johnson sent about the hip-hop group Public Enemy with an active threat against police.

The April 2 tort claim cites actions by Rosenblum and others as contributing to a “hostile work environment, employment discrimination and defamation.”

You can read the tort claim at tinyurl.com/gt32s4b.

Among other complaints, Johnson’s letter claims that the former chief counsel for the DOJ’s Criminal Justice Division, Darin Tweedt, informed top supervisors of Johnson’s Twitter activity.

“Darin Tweedt was attempting to adversely affect Mr. Johnson’s employment and defame his professional reputation,” according to the tort claim.

It also states that Rosenblum moved Tweedt to an office “three doors down” from Johnson, when the chief counsel was reassigned to a new job in January. Johnson said he sent a Feb. 8 email to the attorney general and her deputy, Fred Boss, asking her why no one had informed him beforehand that he was likely to run into Tweedt regularly.

“Mr. Johnson has yet to receive a substantive response from either individual,” according to the notice.

Ten days after the notice and complaint were filed, Rosenblum told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the relationship between Johnson and herself is “fine.” “He’s a valued employee,” Rosenblum said.

This week’s report into the incident is part of a broader human resources investigation. Attorney Carolyn Walker, who carried out the audit, described it as an isolated incident, and recommended that the DOJ improve diversity training.

Johnson, a former attorney for the city of New York, also filed the a complaint with Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries, but because BOLI is represented by Johnson on housing issues, his case will be handled by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.