OTLA Trial Lawyer Winter 2022

46 Trial Lawyer • Winter 2022 By Blaine Clooten By Mitra Shahri Clooten: As part of my low-cost pub- lic relations/advertising campaign in rural eastern Oregon, I answer a quasi “Ask Abby” column for my local paper, the East Oregonian. “Ask A Lawyer” was a little on the nose, but so be it. Here’s a question and answer from my September 2021 column: Q: Our young adult daughter is living with us, and is working at a medical clinic. One of the physicians she works with has asked her out on several dates (she has made up excuses and declined), continuously compliments her appearance within earshot of other staff, and has touched her back and shoulders unnecessarily. This is making her so uncomfortable she wants to quit. She does not want to confront him. There is no HR person at the clinic and this physician is one of the owners. Would it make sense to get a lawyer involved? A: Your description carries many hallmarks of sexual harassment. Depending on the number of employees in the clinic, she may only have state remedies — no federal remedies. However, she should be realistic that if she takes legal action against her employer, continuing employment may be impossible. If the employer fires her for starting legal action, that would be retaliation, which is also actionable, but she would still be out of a job. She Blaine Clooten Mitra Shahri should not quit before she finds a job because she may not qualify for unemployment benefits. This is a very complex issue, and she should consult an employment law attorney prior to making any decisions. She might want to start a job search at the same time that she consults with an attorney. I received assistance from other attorneys for this answer and I have further reading/information for anyone that is interested. Please see the excellent resource put together by OTLA member Meredith Holley, “Career Defense 101.” Looking back, the advice I gave wasn’t wrong. Other attorneys I spoke with recommended a similar pragmatic approach. But, it was a bit incomplete. Answering questions for the public in a local newspaper presents several challenges. For one, the questions are oneway, so I cannot ask clarifying questions, or schedule a follow-up meeting with new information. Another issue is attention spans are limited, and it’s easy to lose folks in the minutia of the law. I’d call it the Twitter effect, but it’s been going on long before Twitter was a thing. Finally, I only have 800 words. And to make matters worse, I answer multiple questions in each article. Sure, I could focus on one question and answer it as specifically as possible. But, in my opinion, I’m doing a greater public service by it ’ s complicated Wo r k p l a c e S e x u a l H a r a s s m e n t