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Outside Probe Finds 'Unsubstantiated' Claims Of Racism Against BOLI

Thomas Lefebvre

An independent investigation into allegations of racism at Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) concludes the claims are unsubstantiated. 

The complaints were from two former Black employees, Carol Johnson and Shaina Pomerantz. Both filed lawsuits saying there was racial hostility and discrimination at the bureau. 

The Oregon Department of Justice appointed an investigator who reviewed correspondence and interviewed 20 people.  Both Johnson and Pomerantz declined to participate.

Credit Bureau of Labor and Industries
A gag cowpie shipped to former BOLI Carol Johnson, which she claimed was sent as a hate crime.

Anne Marie Levis is interim communications lead for BOLI. She said the investigator questioned Johnson’s credibility on claims that a cowpie was shipped to her as a hate crime.

“Obviously still a very serious thing to receive – even a joke gift of cow manure- in the mail," said Levis. "But the dates did not line up. She had said she received them in June and the date on the package actually was August 15th."  

Levis added that BOLI leadership strives for diversity and inclusiveness.  She said BOLI Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle found the allegations “appalling”.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
BOLI Commissioner Val Hoyle, at a Springfield event with U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh earlier this month.

”There’s always more that people can do," continued Levis.  "And the commissioner is committed to making sure that her leadership is diverse. And that people within the organization feel comfortable to be listened to and can make these types of complains and make sure something will happen with them.”

With BOLI cleared of the allegations, Levis said they’ll keep working on diversity initiatives.

The independent probe was conducted by an investigator with Stoel Rives Law Firm in Portland.

Neither Johnson nor Pomerantz could be reached for comment. 

Another case alleging discriminationby BOLI - regarding a disability involving anxiety disorder - is still in federal court, according to the Pamplin Media Group.  

Copyright 2021, KLCC. 

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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