A former OSU employee claims he was fired due to taking parental leave

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
Dec. 3, 2020 11:23 p.m.

The man took leave to care for his wife and their premature twins

A former Oregon State University employee is claiming he was fired from the institution because he took parental leave.

Joseph McQuillin began working at OSU in 2007, in the university’s housing and dining department. He was eventually promoted to Assistant Director of Facilities Maintenance and Custodial Manager in the university’s Department of Recreational Sports in 2017.

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According to the lawsuit, filed by McQuillin’s attorney in U.S. District Court in Eugene Wednesday, McQuillin’s wife gave birth to premature twins in August 2018; the twins and their mother required extended medical care, the lawsuit states.

A few days later, McQuillin filed for protected medical leave, which OSU approved.

According to the lawsuit, McQuillin communicated with his direct supervisor, Associate Director Bill Callender.

A few months later, in November of 2018, McQuillin’s sons still needed care, so he filed for sick child leave, which OSU again approved. McQuillin again communicated the reason for the ongoing leave to his supervisor.

On Jan. 9, 2019, McQuillin returned to work. According to the lawsuit, McQuillin’s supervisor – Callender – told McQuillin that his medical leave had “left people in the lurch” and “people in the department didn’t know what to make of” it.

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Court documents also state Callender said someone in the department had asked why McQuillin was gone and Callender told them he “wasn’t sure,” even though McQuillin had repeatedly communicated that he was on protected leave because of his infant sons’ medical complications.

That same day, Callender told McQuillin that Leah Dorothy, the Director of Recreational Sports, was stripping him of his supervisory duties and removing him from the Team of Directors. The court documents state this appeared to be in retaliation for McQuillin’s taking family leave.

The lawsuit also alleges an aspect of gender discrimination. It argues McQuillin was treated differently as a father taking medical leave, suggesting that mothers taking medical leave had not been removed from supervisory duties or directory levels.

Six months later, in June 2019, Callender told McQuillin that Director Dorothy was discharging him. McQuillin was the only assistant director not on the Team of Directors, and he was the only employee Dorothy discharged at the time in the department, according to court documents.

The lawsuit contends McQuillin was wrongfully terminated from his position, and is asking for economic damages he suffered from losing his job. It names both OSU and Dorothy as defendants. The lawsuit is also requesting a jury trial.

“We are aware of this lawsuit and fully dispute its allegations,” Steve Clark, OSU Vice President of University Relations and Marketing, told OPB. “OSU takes seriously its commitment to non-discrimination and applies its leave policies and practices equitably for all genders.”

Clark said OSU adheres to the federal Family Medical Leave Act, Oregon family leave law and other university and union policies.

“OSU’s commitment and adherence to these laws and policies are shared with all employees and are not optionally administered,” he said.

Clark also said that the university adheres to laws that prohibit retaliation against an employee because of family medical leave.

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