A former employee of a Roseburg equipment rental business has filed a complaint against the company after he said his bosses wrote him up and then fired him because he filed a workers’ compensation claim against their wishes.
Russell Aliff filed the complaint alleging unlawful employment practices and workers compensation discrimination against United Rentals, Inc. on Oct. 8 in Douglas County Circuit Court. Aliff is represented by Portland attorney Marc Schworm.
United Rentals, Inc. is a chain with more than 1,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada. The Roseburg location where Aliff worked is located at 2661 NE Stephens St.
According to the complaint, on Jan. 6, 2021, Aliff sustained an injury to his leg and knee at work when he slipped off the step of a trailer. Due to the severity of his injuries, Aliff told his manager, Amitpal Bains, that he needed to seek medical attention and file a workers’ compensation claim.
Aliff was called into a meeting with Bains and Daniel Buckley, a regional manager, and told not to file a workers’ compensation claim. These managers suggested that Aliff not seek medical attention, and that he give his injuries time to heal on their own.
After a few weeks without improvement, Aliff sought the care of a physician and filed a workers’ compensation claim. In February 2021, an MRI revealed that Aliff had a torn calf muscle and deep bone bruise. Aliff’s doctor put him on light duty through March 10, 2021.
Near the end of January 2021, Bains reportedly called the medical clinic where Aliff was being treated and falsely told the workers’ compensation coordinator that Aliff changed his mind about filing a claim, and that Aliff was going to utilize his own private health insurance, the complaint said.
After that, according to the complaint, Bains began engaging in conduct designed to intimidate and retaliate against Aliff for filing a workers compensation claim, including:
Pressuring Aliff to get “released” from care, suggesting that he talk to his doctor about getting released to go back to work early.
Berating Aliff, stating: “want to know how much money you cost this company? $55,000.00” in reference to the alleged amounts of Aliff’s workers’ compensation claim cost.
Pressuring Aliff to perform work tasks that he was not medically cleared to perform.
After Aliff was released from light duty, in a meeting with Bains and Buckley, Buckley reprimanded Aliff for getting injured at work, saying it “can’t happen and won’t happen again,” and stated again how much time and money Aliff’s claim had cost the company, according to the complaint.
Soon after Aliff was released from light duty in March, Bains began to admonish him for perceived safety violations. Supervisors and managers at United Rentals had a practice of “selectively writing up employees for safety violations only when it suited their needs, often ignoring safety violations (even severe violations),” the complaint said.
Aliff only began to be reprimanded and written up for alleged safety violations when he returned to work after being injured — prior to that he had never been written up for a safety violation, the complaint said.
“These supposed safety violations were a pretext to terminate Plaintiff’s employment for cause in retaliation for Plaintiff having filed a workers compensation claim,” the complaint said.
On April 14, 2021, United Rentals terminated Aliff. United Rentals discriminated against Aliff because he filed a workers’ compensation claim and then terminated him for the same reason, both in violation of Oregon statutes, the complaint said.
As a direct result of United Rentals’ “unlawful employment actions,” Aliff sustained “wage loss (past and future), humiliation, emotional stress, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of life,” the complaint said.
He is seeking $49,999 as compensation for his back pay, front pay, and compensatory damages, and attorney fees.
When reached by phone this week, Bains declined to comment and referred the matter to lawyers for the company.
Jennifer Goldman, a lawyer for United Rentals, Inc., also declined to comment on the complaint, citing pending litigation.
“Safety is a very important aspect of our company culture and we look forward to resolving this matter shortly,” Goldman said.