(Update: Adding Bureau of Labor Industries filing, determination)
Says she was forced to share hotel room with male colleagues
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A Central Oregon firefighter is suing an Albany private firefighting contractor, alleging gender discrimination and claiming the company forced her to share a hotel room with male firefighters.
Michelle LaPage, 27, fought fires for the private firm Atira Systems/GST in August 2018 and reportedly told company executive Steven Haddix about being uncomfortable to share a room with men, as she was the only woman on the team.
LaPage, who said she lives in Deschutes County, said she would rather sleep in a tent than share a hotel room with her male colleagues, according to the lawsuit, filed Monday in Linn County Circuit Court.
During her employment with Atira GST, LaPage said she slept in a hotel room with four different male firefighters over nearly three weeks, from about Aug. 3-22, 2018.
LaPage filed a complaint against the company in November 2018 with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Last October, the agency's Civil Rights Division issued a "notice of substantial evidence determination."
The report said, "The Bureau of Labor and Industries, Civil Rights Division, finds substantial evidence of an unlawful practice based on sex and perceived disability in that complainant was subjected to a hostile work environment and was terminated from employment."
Haddix told NewsChannel 21 Thursday it's common practice for male and female firefighters to share hotel rooms when fighting fires.
“Yeah, it’s fairly common that you stay where the Forest Service puts you," Haddix said. "You know, especially when you are working night shifts and you have to sleep during the day.”
In the lawsuit, LaPage said she told Haddix that two of the male firefighters who slept in the same room as her were being "rude and condescending."
In a recorded phone conversation, according to the lawsuit, LaPage claimed Haddix called her "mentally ill," a "mental case" and a "wacko."
Haddix, however, said LaPage was fired after nearly three weeks for her poor behavior and work ethic.
“She was terminated for insubordination," Haddix said. "She was very violent and aggressive toward the Forest Service staff.”
LaPage is seeking $475,000 for gender discrimination and wrongful termination.