United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division
OPINION & ORDER
MICHAEL MCSHANE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
City of Ashland moves for partial summary judgment dismissing
Dodson's third claim for wage claim retaliation on the
basis that Dodson failed to comply with the notice provisions
of the Oregon Tort Claims Act (“OTCA”). This
matter is appropriate for resolution without oral argument.
Because Dodson failed to give timely notice of her claim, the
Motion is GRANTED.
Christine Dodson was an employee of Defendant City of Ashland
from 2003 until her termination on October 2, 2017. From 2007
until the date of her termination, Dodson worked as the
Senior Program Director for the Ashland Senior Program.
Compl. ¶ 11. ECF No. 1. The Ashland
Senior Program is administered by the City, acting through
the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission
(“APRC”). Compl. ¶¶ 1,
2015, the City informed Dodson that it had misclassified her
as a salaried employee for eight years when she should have
been classified as an hourly employee. Compl.
¶ 21. As a result, Dodson was owed
substantial back pay for hours worked beyond 40 hours per
week. Id. The City offered Dodson a week of
additional vacation time in lieu of back pay, which Dodson
refused. Dodson Decl., ECF No. 15; Compl.
¶ 22-23. Dodson retained an attorney to
pursue her wage claim against the City. Compl.
the pendency of the wage dispute, Dodson experienced a change
in her relationship with her immediate supervisor, Rachel
Dials, and with Defendant APRC Director Michael Black. Compl.
¶ 25. Although Dodson had previously
received glowing performance reviews, Dodson Decl. Ex. 1, ECF
No. 15, she found herself subject to criticism and reprimands
from Dials and Black about previously uncontroversial aspects
of her work. Compl. ¶¶ 25-32. As
Dodson sets forth in her Declaration, “After I started
to insist on being paid what I was owed, and refusing to work
without being paid, I began to experience retaliation in the
form of increased scrutiny, unjustified discipline, and
frustration from my managers.” Dodson Decl. After
receiving a verbal reprimand in September 2015, Dodson
submitted a written response in which she directly accused
her supervisors of retaliating against her for the wage
claim. Dodson Decl. Ex. 2.
3, 2016, after several months of negotiation, Dodson reached
a settlement agreement with the City which included
substantial back pay and attorney fees. Dodson Decl.; Compl.
¶¶ 24, 32; Lohman Decl. Ex. 3. ECF
No. 12. Because of her deteriorating relationships with Dials
and Black, Dodson insisted on the inclusion of job-related
protections in the settlement agreement. Compl.
¶ 33; Lohman Decl. Ex. 3, at 1.
on October 24, 2016, the APRC approved the establishment of a
Senior Center Advisory Committee tasked with the
“evaluation of the Senior Program and establish[ing]
best practices, set[ting] goals and recommend[ing] the
implementation of any changes to the program.” Compl.
¶ 34. As the Complaint alleges in
considerable detail, this reorganization process continued
through August 9, 2017, and was generally hostile to Dodson.
The process eventually culminated in Dodson's
termination, which the City characterizes as a
“layoff.” Compl. ¶¶
109, 112. Dodson alleges this was not a layoff, but a
“targeted firing, ” aimed at retaliating against
Dodson for her opposition to the restructuring of the Senior
Program, as well as for her earlier wage claim. Compl.
¶¶ 124, 134-39, 144-50. Dodson was
informed of her pending termination on August 23, 2017, and
her termination was effective October 2, 2017. Lohman Decl.
January 5, 2018, Dodson's attorney sent a formal Notice
of Tort Claim to the City pursuant to ORS 30.275. Lohman
Decl. Ex. 1. In her notice letter, Dodson asserted that her
termination was in retaliation for her having “spoke[n]
out on behalf of Ashland's most needy senior citizens,
” during the reorganization of Senior Program.
Id. at 2-3. Dodson accused the City of using the
reorganization “layoff” as pretext for evading
the job-protection provisions of the 2016 settlement
agreement between Dodson and the City. Id. at 3-4.
The letter further accused the City of retaliating against
Dodson for exercising her “right to speak freely about
a matter of public concern, ” in addition to
contractual violations. Id. at 4.
handling of Dodson and the Senior Program proved
controversial and resulted in recall proceedings against the
APRC Commissioners, including Defendant Michael Gardiner.
Compl. ¶¶ 122-23. In response to that recall
effort, Gardiner made public statements critical of Dodson
and suggesting that her termination was the result of
performance issues rather than a layoff. Compl. ¶¶
124-128. In response to those statements, Dodson's
attorney sent a second letter to the City on February 14,
2018, demanding that the City cease and desist from making
defamatory statements about Dodson. Lohman Decl. Ex. 2.
Dodson advised the City to “consider this letter as Ms.
Dodson's notice of her additional tort claims against the
City of Ashland.” Id. at 2.
15, 2018, Dodson filed the present action. In her Complaint,
she brings claims for (1) retaliation for the exercise of
protected conduct under ORS 659A.203 against the City; (2)
common law defamation against Gardiner; (3) wage claim
retaliation under ORS 652.355 against the City; and (4)
violation of her federal Fourteenth Amendment due process
rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Black.
judgment is appropriate if the record shows that “there
is no genuine dispute as to any materials fact and the
[moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Substantive law on an issue
determines the materiality of a fact. T.W. Elec. Servs.,
Inc. v. Pac. Elect Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626,
630 (9th Cir. 1987). Whether the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party determines the authenticity of the dispute.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
moving party has the burden of establishing the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Caltrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party
shows the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the
nonmoving party must go beyond the ...