Update: OSU disputes allegations from BOLI complainant, bureau to move forward with investigation

Candace Baltz was the former director of Experiential Learning & Engagement.

Cara Nixon, News Contributor

Editor’s Note: The Daily Barometer is within Orange Media Network, and OMN is within Experiential Learning & Activities formerly directed by Candace Baltz. 

Oregon State University is disputing claims from former Director of Experiential Learning & Activities Candace Baltz, who recently filed a complaint through the Bureau of Labor & Industries against OSU. 

Baltz filed the complaint to BOLI on March 1, 2021 and alleged that OSU was practicing unlawful employment based on her disability, sex, gender, invocation of the Oregon Family Leave Act and protected whistleblowing activities. She claimed that the university treated her differently than other employees, did not make accommodations for her disability, denied her leave and ultimately terminated her employment. 

With a severe air-borne allergy to dairy which can cause anaphylactic shock, Baltz said she felt criticized by her peers and supervisors for not attending a meeting due to her disability, though she was not required to attend these meetings. 

On Nov. 3, 2018, Baltz had a severe allergic reaction due to what she claimed was a “failure to accommodate at a meeting.” Baltz named Damoni Wright, director of Student Experiences & Engagement, and Patty Jackson, Wright’s assistant, multiple times throughout her complaint and claimed they “intentionally created environmental conditions aggravating [her] disability.”

Jackson declined to comment. However, Wright said he “vehemently” disputes these allegations from Baltz. 

“Oregon State University has a longstanding commitment and policies related to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability and provides equal access and accommodations for university employees and students,” Wright said. “This is a responsibility and requirement of each OSU employee. The university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Access is engaged actively in training, education and putting in place accommodations for students and employees to engage equally in work at OSU, academic programs, research, service and other activities of the university.”

Wright said the SEE staff works through EOA to put these accommodations in place.

Kim Kirkland, the executive director and Title IX coordinator for the EOA, is not able to respond to any questions regarding complaints filed by a current or former student or employee. However, she explained the process EOA conducts when an OSU employee is seeking accommodations for an allergy or injury. 

An initial meeting with the employee is conducted and is followed by communications with medical providers as needed and the supervisor. Then, the information gathered is used to help determine an outcome. 

“Sometimes accommodations are quick and easy to implement, sometimes they are very complex and require a lot of conversation and thought to determine what is reasonable to do,” Kirkland said. “In the past three academic years EOA has facilitated this interactive process for 546 accommodation requests.”

Though she cannot speak to Baltz’s complaints specifically, Kirkland said she would consider the claim that EOA doesn’t listen to complaints and concerns regarding equal opportunity and access as an “unfair assessment” of the office. 

“EOA takes every complaint and concern reported to our office seriously,” Kirkland said. “We take immediate and appropriate steps to review and resolve matters promptly and equitably.”

Vice President of University Relations & Marketing Steve Clark said the university also disputes Baltz’s allegations, and like Wright, noted OSU’s “longstanding commitment and policies related to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability” and EOA. 

Jenny Smith is the strategic communications director of BOLI. She said BOLI has one year from the receipt of the signed complaint to complete the investigation. The investigation will include collecting documents, conducting interviews and reviewing position statements. Currently, Baltz’s complaint is waiting to be assigned to an investigator.

“At the completion of the investigation, BOLI will decide whether there is substantial evidence of an unlawful practice,” Smith explained. “If BOLI does not find substantial evidence of an unlawful practice, the case will be dismissed. If BOLI does find substantial evidence, the case may be moved toward conciliation or referred to the Administrative Prosecution Unit for review.”

Jaycee Kalama contributed to this story.