BOLI finds evidence to support former PUD employee's claims
A former IT manager for the Columbia River Peoples Utility District is expected to sue the district for unlawful employment practices.
John Nguyen filed two claims against the PUD with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
Nguyen, who worked for the district since 1987, alleged he was discriminated and retaliated against for being a whistleblower.
An investigator who reviewed Nguyens BOLI complaints found substantial evidence to support Nguyens claims.
Joel Christiansen, Nguyens attorney, said the PUD and Nguyen couldnt come to a settlement agreement, but both parties have an ongoing dialogue.
Christiansen couldnt say whether the case would be filed in state or federal court, but said he expects the suit to be filed within the next month. Nguyen has since withdrawn the BOLI complaints.
We found it most efficient to withdraw the complaints and, frankly, not waste anymore of the bureaus resources, Christiansen said.
According to Nguyen, he endured a pattern of retaliation from his former manager, Kevin Owens, after raising concerns about salary survey software the district used to establish pay ranges for its employees. Nguyen claimed the district was using the wrong parameters to determine salaries for employees, including his own. Nguyen also reported a quarantined email Owens received from a customer and then sent to his son.
The customers email provided his electric account number and a personal appeal to Owens for a break on his utility bill, citing physical disability, financial and personal hardships. Owens forwarded the email to his son and the two exchanged several replies, mocking and disparaging the customer.
Nguyen reported both of his concerns to the PUDs board of directors. He was reprimanded by Owens and asked to create a work plan to correct his behavior, before he was eventually fired in March 2014.
The PUD, through its attorney, responded to the claims made by Nguyen, saying he was fired for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons. The district alleges Nguyen knowingly destroyed PUD data related to his claims against the district.
Nguyens defensive, belligerent, and aggressive behavior toward management was also cited as a major factor in his termination.
BOLI investigator Nicole Babnick claims Nguyen was engaged in protected activity, according to state law. She also found that the sequence of events point to retaliation and termination of Nguyen while he was protected as a whistleblower.
A reasonable person can conclude that the ... work plan requirements would have never been an issue had Complainant not engaged in protected activity, her report states.
Babnick said the PUDs reasons for firing Nguyen are pretext for protected class discrimination.Add a comment