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Former Portland Electrician Sues City For $800,000

Heather Kowitz, a former Portland electrician, just filed a massive federal lawsuit against the city, claiming that she was fired and discriminated against for her sexual orientation, citing the perceived disability and unlawful employment practices she experienced while employed with the city. Kowitz believes that her bosses believed she was mentally impaired, and the victim of retaliation after filing two complains with the state labor bureau concerning the unlawful and discriminatory practices of her colleagues and supervisors while on the job.

During Kowitz’ two and a half years on the job she filed two complaints with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, alleging a hostile work environment, retaliation, and different terms and conditions of employment based off her sexual orientation. The complaint was dismissed a month later. Immediately following the complaint Kowitz was required to submit to a psychological examination as a condition of continued employment, and even after passing it, was not allowed to return to work until the first of the year.

Kowitz then filed a second complaint, alleging unlawful discrimination based on a perceived disability and opposition to unlawful employment practices. Kowitz, although not actually mentally impaired, was apparently perceived to be by city employees and supervisors.

She was also targeted for her choice of clothing, being openly ostracized for wearing a “Canadian tuxedo”, and was called “worthless” in the workplace. One colleague even went as far as to refer to her as “it”. The complaint notes that Kowitz was subjected to poor working conditions throughout her tenure with the city, which worsened after the filing of her two complaints.

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