Gail Stevens, a former lawyer for the Oregon Legislature, today filed a whistleblower lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court against Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland).
Stevens worked as a deputy legislative counsel from late 2014 to March 2017.
In her lawsuit, she alleges Courtney and Kotek, the Legislature's two most powerful members, failed to protect her from retaliation after she "reported unlawful conduct, mismanagement, and abuses of power at the Oregon State Capitol," and when she opposed "gender discrimination and noncompliance with state and federal laws against sexual harassment."
The subject of her complains to Courtney and Kotek was her then-boss, Legislative Counsel Dexter Johnson. (Stevens previously filed suit against Johnson and the state of Oregon. That case is pending in Marion County.)
The new lawsuit comes at a delicate time for Courtney and Kotek.
An investigation conducted by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries last year and released in early January found fault with both leaders' responses to other allegations of sexual harassment.
As a result of the BOLI investigation, the two Democratic leaders are currently engaged in mediation with several victims of sexual harassment in the Capitol.
Stevens' new lawsuit touches on at least one of the instances of harassment at issue in the BOLI mediation.
She alleges that in March 2016, state Sen. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis) reported "inappropriate touching" by another legislator to Johnson and the Legislature's human resources director, Lore Christopher. Stevens' lawsuit says they failed to investigate. (Gelser's complaint would eventually lead to the the forced resignation of state Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg) but not until February 2018.)
Stevens alleges that in August 2016, she reported the alleged failure to investigate harassment claims by others and her supervisors' alleged retaliation against her to Courtney and Kotek's offices, with which she had worked closely.
"After plaintiff's report, [Courtney and Kotek] treated plaintiff like an employee at the capitol with whom defendants had never met or worked," the lawsuit says.
In March 2017, Johnson fired Stevens.
Stevens is seeking damages of between $1 million and $10 million from Courtney and Kotek.
Spokespeople for the legislative leaders did not immediately respond to requests for comment.