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Ruling Validates Equality Law

Labor commissioner wins case against bakers

1/3/2018, 9:53 a.m.
Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian says Oregon’s protections against discrimination in public accommodations remain strong after ...
Brad Avakian

Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian says Oregon’s protections against discrimination in public accommodations remain strong after a higher court affirmed a finding that an Oregon bakery discriminated against a couple because they were Lesbians.

The Oregon Court of Appeals last week upheld emotional distress damages for the same-sex couple, which was denied service by the Sweet Cakes bakery in Gresham. The ruling affirms the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry’s finding that the owners unlawfully discriminated against the couple in violation of the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 by denying them full and equal access to a place of public accommodation.

The court affirmed both the $135,000 in damages and the underlining violation of the law while rejecting BOLI’s finding that the Klein’s public statements represented an intent to unlawfully discriminate in the future.

Under Oregon law, businesses cannot refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion.

In response to the ruling, Commissioner Brad Avakian explained that within Oregon’s public accommodations law is the basic principle of human decency that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, has the freedom to fully participate in society.

“For the past 10 years, the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 has protected Oregonians from unlawful discrimination in housing, employment and public places. Today’s ruling sends a strong signal that Oregon remains open to all,” Avakian said.

In each civil rights investigation, the Bureau of Labor and Industries approaches the complaint not with a bias for or against the complainant, but with a duty to determine the unique set of facts, officials said. In the vast majority of all employment, housing and public accommodations complaints filed under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, BOLI investigators have found that no substantial evidence exists to support charges of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, officials said.

Any Oregon employer seeking to navigate the Oregon Equality Act or other civil rights protections can contact BOLI’s Technical Assistance for Employers with questions at (971) 673-0824.