Tenants Settle Claims of Habitability Violations

Attorney Richard Myers represented tenants who alleged that owners and managers of a 300-unit apartment building in downtown Portland failed to remedy habitability defects, including cockroach and bedbug infestations.

The tenants began noticing insects shortly after moving into the building. The building managers ultimately allowed them to terminate their rental agreements without a penalty, but not before they had to discard personal items, put food in sealable containers, and spend many uncomfortable hours battling the infestations.

Myers filed lawsuits for violation of ORS 90.320 and Portland City Code that requires residential property owners to eliminate pest infestations.

Five tenants settled their claims for a total sum of more than $45,000. A sixth tenant settled her claims for a confidential amount.

Arbitrator Orders Reinstatement of College Program Coordinator

An Oregon Community College with a very successful Medical Office Assistant training program moved the program out of one division into another because of a personal conflict between the Program Coordinator and the Dean of the Health Professions Division, who required the program to accept her husband as a candidate, but he then failed the program. For several years after, the program was moved around campus and twice “reviewed” by outside experts. One such expert issued a report recommending program revisions, without speaking to any of the faculty. Many of the proposed changes were ones long requested by the Program Coordinator who had fallen out of favor with the Dean.

As a result of the new report, the College decided to replace the Program Coordinator, without any corrective evaluation process. The College first claimed that the incumbent Coordinator was unable to implement the changes, but then changed its position and claimed that the change was needed because of promises made to local employers. It then moved the program back under the Dean of the Health Professions Division, and hired a replacement Coordinator. The union grieved the change, even though it did not affect the pay of the removed Coordinator, who was assigned other work.

After two days of hearing, the independent Arbitrator determined that (1) the College never offered a cogent explanation for the decision to replace the old Coordinator; (2) the old Coordinator was well-qualified to enact the recommended curriculum changes; (3) although the College stated at the hearing that the old Coordinator could apply for the new position, that argument was disingenuous; and therefore, (4) the College failed to act in good faith in deciding to replace the old Coordinator. The College failed to articulate a legitimate and reasonable institutional reason for the challenged action that comports with the facts. This arbitrary and capricious action is inconsistent with the language of the collective bargaining agreement, and therefore, the arbitrator held that the old Coordinator must be reinstated to her former position.

Arbitrator Rules that College Must Increase Pay to Accommodate Athletic Coach Workload Demands

Lane Community College (LCC) has a very successful Track and Field and Cross-Country programs, led by an experienced college coach. The programs have been quite successful and expanded in recent years, along with the coach’s responsibilities and workload.

The collective bargaining agreement between LCC and the Lane Community College Education Association contains a provision allowing for “interest arbitration” between the College and the Association whenever there is disagreement over compensation for workload that exceeds certain standards set for in the agreement, based on model workloads for four departments in the College. This differs from grievance arbitration in that the arbitrator does not interpret the language of the contract, but instead applies certain standards to set the maximum full-time workload for the instructors who complain of overload assignments.

In 2015, the Association asked for a review of the coach’s workload assignment; a panel recommended a small increase in compensation, but ignored much of the evidence. The Association challenged the workload findings of the panel, and sought interest arbitration. A labor arbitrator upheld the Association’s position, and awarded approximately 49 days of retroactive pay, and an additional 31 days per year going forward, based on current workload.

Justice for Injured Worker

Attorney Richard Myers successfully represented an injured worker who was denied reemployment. The worker suffered a serious on-the-job injury and filed a workers’ compensation claim. Her claim was denied and the employer refused to restore her employment after she recovered from the injury.

Myers represented the worker in a hearing on her workers’ compensation claim. The judge ruled in her favor and issued a penalty for the insurance company’s unreasonable denial of her claim. Shortly after the hearing, Myers successfully pursued separate claims on behalf of the worker for the employer’s unlawful discrimination against a workers’ compensation claimant (ORS 659A.040) and failure to reinstate an injured worker (ORS 659A.043). The worker has since found permanent employment with a new employer.

Arbitrator Rules that Educational Service District Violated the Contract by Failing to Treat Travel Time as Work Time

The Linn-Benton-Lincoln Education Service District provides services to 12 school districts across three counties. The majority of its certified employees are itinerant, providing services at various schools within the ESD. Most are headquartered in Albany. Travel time to school sites ranges from 15 minutes from headquarters to 2 hours away. Under past practice, travel time in excess of the employee’s regular commute (i.e., the time from home to “headquarters”) was considered work time. Employees could either adjust their schedule within week, or earn flex time for travel that occurred before 8:00 a.m. and/or after 4:00 p.m. In addition, the contract recognized that employees could “occasionally” be expected to work 30 minutes outside of their regular workday.

In September 2015, the ESD changed its policy regarding travel time. Under the new policy, the workday for employees working more than 30 miles from home base would be adjusted by 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon to reflect travel time, but any additional travel time would be treated as “commute” time – i.e., not compensable. In addition, the ESD announced that “occasionally” would be interpreted to mean four times per month.

The Association grieved these changes. The ESD claimed that its policy was consistent with the contract and, to the extent practices differed, it was because supervisors were unaware of how employees were calculating flex time. The ESD also argued that the Association failed to follow applicable procedures. Arbitrator David Stiteler rejected all of the ESD’s defenses. He found that under the plain meaning of the word, “occasional” means from “time-to-time,” i.e., neither a frequent nor regular occurrence. Therefore, the ESD violated the contract by expecting employees to work 30 minutes extra regular basis (four times per month).

Turning to travel time, the Arbitrator found that the clear and consistent practice had been to treat an employee’s travel time in excess of their regular commute time as work, and thus compensable. In addition, he found that the contract had not been interpreted to limit travel time for worksites closer than 30 miles away, if it actually took more than 30 minutes to get to the worksite, which was frequently the case. As a remedy, he ordered that the ESD to rescind its policy guidance and return to past practice. This was a complete victory for the Association. Employees had testified that they felt betrayed by the ESD’s actions and extremely burnt out. Moving forward, the ESD will need to honor its contractual commitment and not solve budget issues on the backs of its employees.

Arbitrator Rules that College Violated Contract Complaint Procedures

As part of his union duties, the Lane Community College Education Association (LCCEA) President sat on several College Councils, including the Diversity Council.  In 2013 and early 2014 the Diversity Council was working on a cultural diversity training program which proposed required training for all LCCEA Faculty.  The LCCEA president objected to the imposition of mandatory training without first bargaining over contract implications, and the discussion became heated.  Other procedural disputes ensued.  A complaint was filed against the LCCEA President by four students and faculty, alleging vague but far-reaching violations of College policies concerning discrimination and harassment.  The College issued a complaint, and then conducted a far-reaching investigation, by outside counsel, which Arbitrator William Reeves described as “to a large extent secret.”  The LCCEA filed two grievances over violations of the contract complaint procedures.  At the end of the investigation, no violations of College Policy were found, but the College rebuked the LCCEA President for his conduct in general, while refusing to reveal any details.

The Arbitrator found the College’s investigation violated both the contract and its own policies.  He found that the College violated disclosure requirements and investigation timelines, and found the College’s interpretation of the contract to be “nonsensical and inconsistent  with” the contract requirements.  He held the College failed to provide the LCCEA with specific evidence of the charges, and therefore the College “lost authority to sanction or reprimand the Grievant.”  He ordered the expungement from College records of all documents relating to the investigation except those needed to protect against future litigation, which shall not be accessed except by Court order.  He also directed the College to cease and desist from future violations of the complaint procedure.

Federal Court Finds School District Violated Teachers’ and Students’ First Amendment Rights

On the eve of a 2012 teacher strike, the Eagle Point School District adopted policies banning all signs and picketing activity on school property.  The Eagle Point Education Association promptly notified the District that the policies were unconstitutional but the District refused to modify them.  During the strike, the District strictly enforced its new policies to restrict pro-teacher speech by students and others.   The District defended its policies as part of its “educational mission.”  It also argued that school property was not a “not a public forum” and that striking educators had no legitimate reason to be on school property.

The Association filed a federal lawsuit challenging the District’s policies under both the U.S. and Oregon constitutions during the strike.  It pursued those claims after the strike settled.  In a sharply worded ground-breaking decision, Federal Magistrate Mark Clark ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor on each of its claims.  He found that the District’s policies were neither neutral nor necessary to protect the educational mission of the school: “The importance of educating and caring for students in the midst of such a crisis cannot be overstated.  However, it is precisely this mission that gives an even higher purpose to the protections and freedoms afforded by the Constitution.  In this case, what could have been an incredible opportunity for students to witness the function of the Bill of Rights in their very own lives and learn first-hand that the important principals of our government are not mere platitudes instead became a situation of reactionary, fear-based policies designed to suppress any opposition or unpopular viewpoint.”   He also found that the sign policy was unlawful as applied to student Staci Boyer, who was barred from parking in the school parking lot because of a pro-teacher sign in her car.

Magistrate Clark’s report was review by to U.S. Federal District Judge Michael McShane. Judge McShane affirmed the decision in all respects.

Retired Fire Fighters Win Increased Pension Benefits

Portland Fire Fighters are covered by the Portland Fire & Police Disability & Retirement (FPDR) Fund.  The pension benefits of fire fighters who retired under an old FPDR pension system known as “FPDR One” were calculated based on current top step fire fighter base wages.  After the Portland Fire Fighters Association negotiated an “apparatus operator” premium in 2007 that applied to virtually all non-probationary fire fighters, one retiree asked that the apparatus operator premium pay be included in the calculation of his pension benefit.  The FPDR Fund refused.  Hank Kaplan filed two class action complaints on behalf of approximately 500 members of the FPDR One system.  The class action was denied, then appealed while an administrative hearing was held.  The administrative law judge decided the case in favor of the retirees, and ordered recalculation of the pension benefits. The County Circuit Court upheld the ruling of the administrative law judge. After six years of litigation appeals and a writ of mandamus, the City of Portland finally agreed to correct its method for calculating future FPDR One pension benefits, and also agreed to pay class members more than $2.2 million in retroactive benefits.

Court Approves $2 million Settlement in Class Action Wage Lawsuit

BHMK in collaboration with attorneys from the Oregon Nurses Association successfully settled the class action lawsuit of Thanane v. Providence Health & Services – Oregon.

The lawsuit alleged that Providence violated state and federal laws by withholding wages from employees. Specifically, BHMK attorneys argued that Providence managers fraudulently altered employee timecards to avoid payment of overtime wages. They also argued that Providence systematically underpaid wages by using timekeeping software in a way that rounded clock-in and clock-out times to the detriment of employees.

Providence will pay approximately $2 million as part of a settlement of all claims. More than 25,000 current and former Providence employees were notified that they would receive compensation as part of the settlement. Federal district court judge Michael Mosman approved the settlement at a hearing on June 17, 2015. Checks will be distributed to former and current employees in the next several weeks.

You can read more about the settlement here.

Arbitrator Finds Portland School District Violated High School Workload Contract Provisions

Attorney Margaret Olney has represented local associations throughout the state in efforts to protect their members from the constant pressure of being required to do more work for the same pay.   Most recently, she won a second arbitration for the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) relating to high school workload. The first arbitration arose in 2011 when the District unilaterally adopted a new block schedule that required teachers to teach six instead of five classes and consequently, substantially more students. An arbitrator found that the new schedule violated workload protections in the contract. There were a number of disputes regarding remedy, but ultimately, the District was required to pay over $2 million to high school teachers as compensation for the excess workload.

During bargaining for the current contract, workload protection and workload relief were priorities for PAT.  Despite District demands for take backs regarding workload, PAT succeeded in maintaining key workload protections.  Unfortunately, within days of the contract settlement, the District announced that it would impose a new schedule at all high schools that added significant additional instructional time per week, and eliminated other time available to assist students.  The schedule was inconsistent with promises made in bargaining and, once again, PAT was forced to file a grievance and take the matter to arbitration.  The arbitrator agreed with PAT that workload under the new schedule was not generally comparable to that in place in 2010-2011 (the benchmark year) and ordered the District to return to the prior workload levels and to negotiate a remedy to compensate teachers for the increased workload.   Those discussions regarding remedy are still pending.

Teacher Order Reinstated with Back Pay

The District sought to dismiss a special education teacher for poor performance and neglect of duty.  Although she had always received excellent evaluations, the District placed her on a plan of assistance in December, based largely on concerns regarding her effectiveness managing two severely behaviorally challenged students during that school year.  Before the plan started, the District also transferred her and her program to a new building where she took over as the teacher for a behavioral classroom.  After less than three months in the new position, the District terminated the teacher for poor performance, neglect of duty and inefficiency.  A three person panel of the Fair Dismissal Appeals Board found that the District did not have grounds to dismiss the teacher.  Regarding the performance issues, the Panel found that the plan was neither well-conceived nor well-implemented.   The statement of deficiencies and expectations was too general to be useful.  The duration of the plan  was also too short, particularly given the lack of specific and timely feedback.  Finally, the Panel rejected the District’s claim that students’ behavioral issues could be blamed on the teacher.  With regard to neglect of duty, the Panel found the teacher credible and that any  proven misconduct would not support dismissal.  As a remedy, the Panel ordered the District to reinstate the teacher with full back pay.

Board finds School District Engaged in Unfair Labor Practice By Failing to Restore School Days and Compensation

When the Medford School District received additional funding from the State but did not use that funding to restore school days and compensation in accordance with a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) it had entered into with the Medford Education Association, the Association filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Employment Relations Board.  Aruna Masih represented the Association before the Board.  The Board determined that the District did violate the MOA and ORS 243.672(1)(g) by failing to restore school days and compensation under the MOA.  The Board ordered the District to cease and desist in its unfair labor practice and to bargain a make-whole remedy with the Association regarding the loss of days and compensation.  When the bargaining did not result in an agreement on remedy, the Board issued a Supplemental Order requiring the District to submit $345,067 (plus interest at nine percent per annum) to Association represented employees.

Initiative and Ballot Title Challenges

As anyone involved in ballot measure campaigns can attest to, the wording of the ballot title for a prospective initiative can make the difference in whether proponents will even gather signatures and, if the measure qualifies for the ballot, the difference between winning and losing a campaign. For almost 20 years, Margaret Olney has worked with a variety of organizations and individuals to help ensure that ballot titles for prospective initiatives are fair and accurate. She has filed countless comments that have improved the ballot title, as well as dozens of successful challenges to the Oregon Supreme Court. Sometimes, she works on behalf of those supporting an initiative; other times for those opposing an initiative. While a large amount of her work has revolved around anti-union and anti-tax initiatives, Margaret has also represented a variety of other clients, including environmental groups, professional associations, Planned Parenthood and Basic Rights Oregon. At BHMK, she is joined by Aruna Masih and Tom Doyle, who also have many successful ballot title challenges to their credit.

Medical Negligence Case Settled

Attorney Nelson Hall of Bennett Hartman Morris & Kaplan, representing the injured party, brought to close a medically complex negligence case that involved multiple defendants who failed to identify and diagnose a heart condition which subsequently harmed the client. Attorney Hall called upon several medical experts to prove violations of the standard of care, causation, and damages. He settled the case short of going to trial, a substantial cost-savings for his client. Additionally, he settled the related case for the injured party’s spouse who brought a loss of consortium claim against the defendants.

In Case of First Impression, Arbitrator Finds District Overreached in Labeling Teacher’s Inappropriate Statements as “Sexual Conduct”

A school district determined that a teacher had engaged in “sexual conduct” within the meaning of ORS 339.370 based on comments he made about the meaning of song lyrics to his 7th grade choir. Essentially, when asked, the educator told the girls that teenage boys are often insincere and just want to have sex.  The District acknowledged that the teacher had not engaged in any grooming or predatory behavior. Nonetheless, it characterized his comments as “sexual conduct” because they made students feels uncomfortable.   If this determination had been allowed to stand, the teacher would always have to report the “sexual conduct” finding to any education employer – a career ending label.

Margaret Olney challenged the determination on behalf of the teacher and the local Association.     In the first case interpreting the statute, the Arbitrator agreed with the Association that the District was overreaching and that the teacher had not engaged in “sexual conduct.” The Arbitrator explained that the label of “sexual conduct” is reserved for conduct consistent with “grooming behavior” and that there must be evidence that the offensive comments are “sufficiently pervasive or severe to create a hostile environment.”   Just making a student feel uncomfortable was not enough. In addition, given the seriousness of the allegation, the Arbitrator determined that the statute required a thorough investigation, which the District did not do.

Contract Settled, Strike Averted

Security officers unit under ILWU contract issued a 10-day strike notice during the 30-day cooling-off period following final offers. The employer filed unfair labor practice charges and a petition to declare the strike unlawful with the Employment Relations Board, and a petition for an injunction against the strike in the Multnomah County Circuit Court, providing less than one day notice to the Union. After a full evidentiary hearing on the request for an injunction, the Circuit Court denied the employer’s request for an injunction. Hank Kaplan acted as lead negotiator and lead counsel on the Circuit Court case. Following the denial of the injunction, the employer changed its bargaining stance and the contract was settled without a need for a strike.

Retiree Health Insurance Benefits Protected

Employees who had taken a leave of absence and not maintained health insurance through the employer were denied early retirement health insurance benefits after retirement.  The union pursued a group grievance under the early retirement benefits section of collective bargaining agreement, arguing that the employees were entitled to benefits based on years of service and the employer was improperly imposing additional eligibility requirements.  Aruna represented the union at the arbitration hearing and succeeded in obtaining retiree health insurance benefits.

Firefighter Wins Cancer Case

In July of 2012, attorney Nelson Hall won an important victory for firefighters in a work-related testicular cancer case. Hall proved to the Workers’ Compensation Board that the insurance company had failed to rebut the presumption that the firefighter’s testicular cancer resulted from his employment as a firefighter. This is the first in a string of cancer cases that Hall is pursuing on behalf of the firefighters. Further information here.

Arbitrator Requires City to Reinstate Fire and Police Pension Reversion Benefits

The City of Portland Fire and Police Retirement Fund had a rule which provided that when an alternate payee (such as an ex-spouse) died before the retiree, the alternate payee’s payments would revert to the retiree. The Board of the pension fund eliminated the reversion benefit, and the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association filed a grievance over the change, asserting that it violated the maintenance-of-benefits clause in the union contract. The City refused to arbitrate. Hank Kaplan filed an unfair labor practice charge to compel the City to arbitrate and then represented the union in the subsequent arbitration. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the union, and ordered the City to reinstate the benefit. The arbitrator held that pension benefits are a mandatory subject of bargaining and that the contract obligated the City to maintain the pension benefits in the contract, regardless of whether the pension fund paid for those benefits.

Oregon’s Domestic Partnership Law Successfully Defended

Margaret Olney successfully represented Intervenors Basic Rights Oregon in a lawsuit brought by a conservative religious foundation to qualify a referendum for the ballot that would have repealed Oregon’s domestic partnership law. We successfully defended the state’s signature verification process before the U.S. District Court and the Ninth Circuit, resulting in the domestic partnership law taking effect to the benefit of thousands of committed couples.

PERS Data Verification

An employee entitled to PERS benefits was told by PERS that she would be receiving a certain amount in retirement benefits. The employee gave up her job and retired in reliance on the information provided by PERS. Several months after the employee retired, PERS told the employee that her retirement benefit amount was actually a quarter less than what it had told the employee she would get before she retired. Aruna took the case to trial and won a unanimous jury verdict in favor of the employee for over $200,000.  When the appellate courts reversed the judgment, Aruna and her client went before the legislature to request a legislative fix for the problem.  The legislature passed ORS 238.285 allowing PERS members to obtain a binding data verification from PERS before they retire.

Teacher Dismissal Overturned

A teacher had attempted to commit suicide off-duty by driving her vehicle into the back of her estranged husband’s unoccupied truck. Despite the fact that the teacher received only minor injuries and was soon released to return to work, the District terminated her employment. Tom Doyle represented her before an administrative panel. That panel ordered reinstatement. According to the unanimous panel, terminating the teacher was “clearly excessive and unreasonable.”

FLSA Action: Two Cases

Approximately 80 Paramedics, Dispatchers, and EMTs filed claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act for wages for training time required to maintain EMT certifications. Hank Kaplan represented the employee class, pursued the case in Federal Court and won a ruling that the employer was in violation of the FLSA and owed two years of back wages for training time.

In another case, Arson Investigators in the Fire Bureau sought overtime for hours worked in excess of standard work week for law enforcement officers, not fire suppression employees. Hank Kaplan brought action in federal court resulted in settlement requiring retroactive and prospective payments to these employees as law enforcement agents.

School District Ordered to Compensate Teachers for Increased Student Contact Time

This is a case dating back to 2007 in which the Association challenged the District’s unilateral decision to increase student contact time by approximately 30 minutes per day, when it adopted a new trimester schedule. The Association argued that the District was required to bargain over the decision; the District claimed that the increase in student contact time was merely an “impact” of its educational decision to change to the trimester schedule. The Association lost before the Employment Relations Board (ERB), but the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the matter back to the Board for reconsideration. On remand, ERB found that the District had failed to bargain over the significant increase in student contact time. As a remedy, ERB required the District to pay teachers $1000 per year for each year they worked under the excess load. For many teachers, this would add up to over $5000 for the extra time they worked.   In addition, the District had to modify its schedule to reduce student contact time.

Proposed Termination of Special Education Teacher Reversed

The District sought to terminate a long-time and successful special education teacher for paperwork errors. The Association argued that termination was too severe a penalty for problems that were the natural consequence of severe underfunding. After Attorney Margaret Olney provided the District with information from other educators about the District’s inconsistent policies and the prevalence of similar problems throughout the District, the District agreed to reduce the discipline to a short suspension.

Disciplinary Action Reversed

An employee suffering from Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) covered conditions was disciplined for alleged excessive absenteeism. Aruna Masih, representing the employee through her union, took grievances on behalf of the employee to arbitration under the union’s contract with the employer and won reversal of the disciplinary action.

University Faculty Reimbursed for Unlawful Retirement Contribution Reductions

Tom Doyle represented a group of six plaintiffs on behalf of a class of thousands of Oregon University faculty who participate in State’s Optional Retirement Plan (ORP). The Oregon University System had unlawfully reduced ORP participants contributions by in excess of two million dollars. As a result of the filing of the suit and this settlement, OUS reimbursed its employees in excess of two million dollars, including repaying lost earnings on those contributions and plaintiffs’ attorney fees.

Oregon Taxpayers United

Greg Hartman was lead counsel for the Oregon Education Association in a lawsuit against Oregon Taxpayers United as well as Oregon Taxpayers United Education Foundation, two organizations founded and operated by Bill Sizemore. After a three-week jury trial a Multnomah County jury found those defendants liable for racketeering as a result of which a judgment was ultimately entered against those defendant organizations in an amount in excess of $3 million. In subsequent litigation Bill Sizemore has been found in contempt in four separate proceedings for failing to abide by the orders of the court. Most importantly this case revealed the realities of paid signature gathering and served as the jumping off point for several legislative reforms which have limited the abuses in the initiative process.

Disciplinary Suspension Ruled Excessive

A corrections deputy was arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants near his home. The arrest was without incident, and resulted in a diversion agreement instead of a conviction. The employer imposed a long suspension as the “minimum” discipline available under its guidelines, and the deputy’s union grieved the discipline. Hank Kaplan, representing the union, established that the employer’s past practice was to impose a single-day minimum for similar offenses, and the arbitrator agreed. The discipline was changed to one day, and the deputy was made whole for the difference.

Unlawful Paycheck Deductions Reimbursed

After an employee was terminated from his employer, the employer made deductions from the employees final paycheck. These deductions were for allegedly incorrect expense account reimbursements. Tom Doyle successfully obtained reimbursement to the employee for all unlawful deductions and penalty wages.

Nurses’ Union Victory at OHSU

Tom Doyle and Hank Kaplan represented the nurses union in an unfair labor practice complaint against Oregon Health Sciences University. During a strike by the nurses union, OHSU paid nurses an incentive to cross the picket line. As a result of this ULP, OHSU was required to pay the same incentive to nurses who did not cross the picket line.

Oregon Workers’ Compensation Board Finds Firefighter’s Heart Condition Work-Related

After an Administrative Law Judge upheld SAIF’s denial of a firefighter’s occupational disease claim for a heart condition, the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) reversed the decision, finding in favor of the firefighter on the issue of compensability.

The WCB concluded that the opinions of SAIF’s medical experts were insufficient to overcome the “firefighter presumption” in ORS 656.802(4). The presumption holds that death, disability or impairment of health, caused by any disease of the lungs or respiratory tract, hypertension or cardiovascular-renal disease, and resulting from employment as firefighters, is an occupational disease and shall be presumed to result from a firefighter’s employment.

The WCB found that SAIF had not established that the firefighter’s heart condition was unrelated to his employment. SAIF was ordered to process the claim and pay the firefighter’s litigation costs.

Ban of Paid Signatures Upheld

Margaret Olney helped draft Measure 26, a ballot measure that bans the practice of paying per signature for initiative and referendum petitions. After it was approved by the voters, Margaret represented Chief Petitioners (as Intervenors) in a lawsuit by opponents claiming the measure unconstitutionally chilled political speech. The U.S. District Court and the Ninth Circuit rejected the challenge, finding that the restriction was a reasonable election law regulation that furthered the state’s important interest in preventing fraud. The case set an important precedent for other states seeking to curb fraud in the initiative process.

Sexual Harassment Settlement Awarded

An employee was subjected to sexual harassment by her supervisor and other male co-workers. The situation at work became so unbearable that the employee was forced to quit her job. Aruna Masih helped file a sex discrimination and wrongful discharge case in state court on behalf of the employee. The employer settled the case during depositions of their witnesses, agreeing to give the employee a large portion of money and other relief she was asking the state court to award.

Travel Reimbursements Settlement

An employee was denied reimbursement for travel she did for her employer. Aruna, represented the employee through her union, filed grievances on behalf of the employee under the union’s contract with the employer and negotiated a settlement with the employer for the full amount owed to the employee.

Disability Discrimination Case Settled

An employee suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder was refused the right to return to work by her employer, even after her doctor issued a full release. Aruna helped file a disability discrimination case in federal court on behalf of the employee. The employer settled the case before trial, agreeing to give the employee most of the money and other relief she was asking the federal court to award.

Labor Arbitration Awards Union Members Over $3M in Severance Benefits

In the fall of 1999 Smurfit Newsprint sold its paper mill in Newberg, Oregon to Southeast Paper. The new employer retained virtually all of the union employees and assumed the terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement. Most union employees lost no work as a result of the transfer of ownership. Nonetheless a grievance was filed against Smurfit Newsprint arguing that union employees were entitled to their severance payment under the collective bargaining agreement. Greg Hartman handled the arbitration in which the arbitrator agreed and awarded union members in excess of $3 million of severance benefits. With the help of Michael Morris, that arbitration award was successfully defended in both federal district court as well as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.