The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office received notice Monday that a Portland lawyer intends to file a class action lawsuit alleging discrimination against military veterans.
The tort claim notice names current sheriff’s office employee David Crump and former deputy Ronny Dozier, who retired in May after more than two decades with the office, as alleged victims of discrimination. Both are veterans of the U.S. Army.
“There exists sufficient evidence to assert that the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and Deschutes County has a history of discriminating against veterans and disabled veterans,” wrote Portland attorney Sean Riddell.
In class action cases, a judge must first determine if a “class” of people has been harmed by someone or some entity. If the judge designates that a class exists, lawyers then work to add plaintiffs to the case.
In this case, Riddell will attempt to find veterans who’ve applied for jobs or promotions with the sheriff’s office or Deschutes County since 2015. He told The Bulletin he intends to file records requests with the county to help identify these people in the next few weeks.
“We just don’t know how many people are out there,” he said Monday.
The most recent version of Oregon’s veteran preference law was passed in 2012. The federal government’s was passed in 1944. They require public employers to give preference to eligible veterans in certain hiring decisions.
In Dozier’s case, in May of 2016, the county human resources department requested applications for promotions to the rank of sergeant.
According to a lawsuit he filed in Deschutes County Circuit Court, Dozier needed approval from his two immediate supervisors, who refused to give it to him and later refused to give him an explanation of how his veterans preference was applied to their decision.
In Crump’s case, Riddell says the county has an additional, unnecessary hoop veterans must jump through to apply their veterans preference points. Riddell says the county’s extra requirement — a form that must be filled out — violates state law.
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. William Bailey said the agency was unable to comment on the possible class action suit, due to pending legal matters.
“A large portion of our workforce are veterans,” Bailey said. “We value their experience and backgrounds and what they bring to our agency.”
Dozier has two active lawsuits against the sheriff’s office and Deschutes County. The first he filed last year alleges the agency violated Oregon’s veterans preference law.
The second he filed this year alleges retaliation against a whistleblower, and other claims.
Dozier has filed two complaints with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, one against the sheriff’s office and one against the county. Both were closed due to insufficient evidence.
Crump filed a BOLI complaint against Deschutes County and prevailed when the agency found cause that the county failed to apply Oregon’s veterans preference policy in his case.
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