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Is this discrimination and can I sue the Executive Director only of a non-profit or would I have to sue the non-profit too?

Astoria, OR |

I managed a shelter for a non-profit in 2010 and 2011 and was required to live on-site. $725 was deducted from my check each month for rent. I just recently found out nobody before or after me paid rent but lived there for free. I had no contract but I did see one that said rent was free for after hour and weekend coverage. When I questioned the executive director about rent she lied and said everyone had always paid rent there. Could I sue the ED or would I have to sue the agency. I still work there but ED retired. I only want her to pay.

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Attorney answers 3


Actionable discrimination claims arise under statute. You must fit within one of the prohibited discrimination classes. You have not identified that you are protected by the statute. I believe that you would have to sue the agency. Even if you sue the ED, they may turn around and tender the defense to the agency anyway. They will state they were acting in furtherance of the entity and are likely protected by indemnity provisions. Any attorney that would take the case would also need as many prospective defendants with deep pockets to make the effort worth it. Your state probably has a human rights commission that you can present your case to for investigation which won't cost you anything.

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Discrimination, for legal purposes, is not found automatically when one person is treated differently from other people. Discrimination claims arise only when one person is treated differently from others by virtue of that person's membership in a protected category - that is, because of their race, gender, religion, &c. Nothing you've said here indicates that you were charged rent for one of these reasons - unless you can prove that this was the reason, there's no discrimination claim against either the agency or its director. (It's also not clear to me how you know that the director lied about this. You'd need some pretty substantial proof for any kind of legal claim.)

Bear in mind also that if you sue this agency, you will almost certainly lose your job there. That's not how it's supposed to work, necessarily, but that's generally what happens in practice.

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As the others have said, this does not appear to be a form of discrimination which is illegal, unless you were charged rent because of your race, religion, gender, etc., which does not appear to be the case. If it were, everyone who ever held that position would need to receive the same compensation and benefits, and typically those items are negotiated and vary from time to time.

There may be some interesting questions as to whether the compensation complies with Oregon law, particularly if you were on call around the clock and lived on premises for the employer's convenience. You might want to contact an employment lawyer or the Bureau of Labor for some clarification on that point.

I believe your claim lies against the employer, not the director, although perhaps the director also has some liability if there was some intentional wrong doing on the director's part.

This comment is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship and obviously is not confidential. You should contact an attorney in your area who can review with you all of the relevant facts and give you specific legal advice.