A Klamath County, Ore., Circuit Court judge rejected a motion for a summary judgement made by a substance-abuse treatment facility seeking to resolve a $4.4-million whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former counselor alleging she was demoted in retaliation for calling out the sexual abuse of patients.
According to the (Medford, Oregon) Mail Tribune, Judge Dan Bunch denied the motion by OnTrack and its director, Rita Sullivan, saying the motives and intents presented in the lawsuit could only be settled by a jury.
The whistleblower retaliation lawsuit was filed by former OnTrack counselor Chavala Bates, who accused a fellow counselor of sexually abusing patients. Her lawsuit was the second whistleblower lawsuit brought against OnTrack over allegations of sexual abuse. The other lawsuit was filed by one of the women who claims to have been sexually abused by the counselor named in Ms. Bates’ complaint. OnTrack settled that lawsuit recently, according to the Mail Tribune.
“Questions of whether or not there was retaliation can be answered only by the resolution of factual disputes,” Judge Bunch wrote in his Dec. 29 letter to lawyers involved in the litigation. “The same is true with regard to whether or not there was a demotion and, if so, the basis for it.”
According to the Mail Tribune, OnTrack works with county mental health and criminal justice programs to provide treatment for adult criminal offenders with substance abuse problems.
In her complaint, Ms. Bates claims that she reported one of the sexual assaults to Ms. Sullivan April 21, 2014. She also reported three cases of sexual abuse at OnTrack to three government agencies on May 7, 2014. “Sometime in May, Bates was no longer employed with OnTrack,” the Mail Tribune reported.
Before she left OnTrack, Ms. Bates was demoted and put in another position – a move she claims Ms. Sullivan made in retaliation for blowing the whistle.
Ms. Bates went on to a new job with Community Works, an organization that worked with OnTrack in various ways. The new job required her to work in OnTrack’s offices, but Ms. Sullivan sought to have her removed. According to the complaint, Ms. Sullivan wrote Community Works a letter, stating “She (Bates) would not be an appropriate candidate for this position as it would present difficulties to have her on this site. Please choose someone else for that position.”
Ms. Sullivan denied that she retaliated against Ms. Bates, claiming that emotional issues and a mismove at work led to her demotion
Source: Mail Tribune