Contacts: Lane County Public Information Officer Anne Marie Levis, 541-915-4659
Late last week, a jury sided with Lane County in a suit brought by former animal shelter director Mike Wellington after he was laid off in 2008.
Wellington sued the County alleging he had been discriminated against after being reassigned to a different position in the County, not in animal services, upon his return to work from medical leave. Wellington’s new position was cut along with more than 100 other jobs because of funding shortfalls in 2008. The lawsuit, for $300,000, was initially dismissed by U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken for lack of evidence, but an appeal reinstated part of the suit and brought the case to a jury.
The jury decided Wellington had not been reinstated to the same or equivalent position upon his return from medical leave, called for under the Family and Medical Leave Act. However, the jury also found the County would have made the same decision even if Wellington had not taken protected leave. The jury further found that Wellington’s disability was not a motivating factor in the County’s decision to change his position.
“This is a sad case where, because of budget reductions and shifts in staff, the County had to make changes,” said Lane County Counsel Stephen Dingle. “The jury understood the County changed Mr. Wellington’s position was never about his medical leave, but instead were an important broader staffing change to help animal services work better.”